You’ve probably been to networking events that make you want to run screaming from the room. All those people doing all that yapping … you wonder if anybody’s listening to anybody.
I’ve been to a lot of meetings lately. One of them was quite large so I met a lot of people. And heard a lot of the same old thing:
- I’m ___________ and I’m a ____________.
- I’ve been in practice since ______.
- I’m certified in ___________.
- I have offices in _________, __________, and __________.
- I help ______________.
And so it went around the table, one person after another with a minute-and-a-half of blahblah while the others pretended to be interested.
Then there was the guy who told us a story about the professionals who need his work. The problem they’re facing in their business. The hope he offers them. And what changes for them when they bring him on.
You could actually see people around the table leaning in, listening to every word, reacting with a smile or a grimace or a nod. Glancing again at his card; “This is someone I want to stay in touch with.”
The energy at Table 4 changed completely.
Then he said, “I have enough time left to thank Catherine Johns for showing me how to turn the lens around.”
Nice mention for me. And it made me think I should share this “lens thing” with you too.
Imagine yourself taking a selfie.
The camera in your phone is focused on you, and you can see yourself on the screen. You adjust it … moving it closer or further away, up or down, to the right or to the left, hoping to catch your best angle.
It’s all about how you look. And it should be—it’s a selfie, after all.
Most people introduce themselves just like that. They focus on themselves. They say a little more or a little less (usually more). They choose the words that will show them in the best light.
Their introduction amounts to a verbal selfie.
Here’s the thing: Most people’s selfies aren’t that fascinating to anyone but them. We scroll right by them all day long on Facebook or Twitter or Insta, don’t we?
That’s why I tell my clients to turn the lens around.
Focus on them instead of you. Make them the subject. Reveal something about them. That’s how you get them to sit up and take notice, make them want to know more, get them thinking about why they need you.
Look: When you come across a picture of yourself in your newsfeed, you don’t keep scrolling. You stop and study it. The photo of you grabs your attention and holds it.
Make your “elevator speech” a picture of the people you serve instead of a selfie.
Going back to Table 4 and the way David Telisman introduced himself … David is a writer. He never needed my help to tell a story, he’s a professional story-teller. Here’s where “turn the lens around” was useful for him.
Like most writers, he’s also not a guy who loves being in the spotlight. You may feel the same way.
You know you need to draw attention to yourself if you’re going to connect with potential clients. How will they know they need you if they don’t even know you exist?
But you hate being the center of attention. You’re an introvert; you’re more comfortable one-on-one than in a group. Or it just feels like bragging to tell people how good you are.
That’s the beauty of turning the lens toward your audience instead of focusing on yourself.
You make them the center of attention instead of you. That takes all the pressure off. So you can breathe, relax, and tell a quick story they actually want to hear—because it’s about them.
It changes everything about the way you feel. And of course that changes the way you’re perceived.
Try it out the next time you’re introducing yourself at an event. Or even when somebody asks, “What do you do?” It works just as well in a casual conversation as in a more formal setting.
Need some practice first?
Post a comment below and tell us what you do, with the focus on the people you serve instead of yourself. What shifts for you when you turn the lens around?
It’s your turn to host the annual Christmas Open House. A few of your biggest clients have been invited. It’s your obligation to entertain so you hire help to run the open house. The staff keeps you out of the kitchen so you are not tethered to the sink or oven. The help passes appetizers and drinks. They make the night run smoothly. Clean up is a cinch. You simply put are a guest at your own party.
Nicely done, Paige. Way to tell your clients’ story.
this is what they call a DUH moment Catherine. We have discussed this before. Alot of these networking thingies remind me of the old commercial on channel 7. Usually later night. They used to call them the starving artist sale. That example is how it should framed pretty much all the time. How do YOU help. This could also be called “ in opposite how to talk on facebook;). Great piece Catherine.
Thanks, Larry. Glad you liked it. And it may be a DUH moment, but a lot of people don’t quite get how to talk about their biz in a way that makes people want to know more.
Are you losing sleep? Worried that your employees/ your work team are not as cohesive as they could be because you see that individual’s communication is challenging? Are you nervous about losing your best people? Is your bottom line being impacted by low productivity and stifled creativity? I like to help people sleep better by bringing teams together with engaging workshops that directly improve performance.
Marcy, for a minute I wondered why you thought I’m losing sleep. How did she know?
Okay, I get it. You’re introducing yourself. I’m not sure I’d start with the sleep thing though. I see where you’re going, but I have to think too much to make it work. Because Engaging Play doesn’t directly impact sleeping. You’re on the right track with worry about a team not working together. I’d like to see you make it more conversational — without the jargon like bottom line impacted and low productivity. Think about using the language real people use when they talk about those people in their office who can’t seem to work together.
How about this: You know how it is when the people on your team can’t seem to communicate? He says “up” … she says “down” … and of course someone else says, “Hey, how about sideways.” Imagine what they could accomplish if they all moved in the same direction! I’m Marcy Fortnow…my workshops give teams the energy and skills to be more creative and have more fun. And yes, creative and fun lead straight to being more productive…and boosting your bottom line.
Something to think about, anyway …
I handle operations for an organization that invests in people and research. I raise money to fund important projects that shape the future of medicine.
Rupa, I think it needs something more specific to capture our interest. And it’s missing a connection to the audience. Both sentences start with “I” – how could you turn the lens around and focus on your audience instead?
Think about something like this:
Can you imagine going in for surgery…and they give you a shot of whiskey to deal with the pain? We’ve come a long way since that was the standard. Anesthesia’s so sophisticated now, patients don’t feel the pain or remember it after their surgery. What’s next? My organization funds the research and the people that will shape that future.
First draft: If you know you need help in your business (ie better customer service, website needs to be easier to use, want staff to communicate more effectively), but not sure exactly what needs to be done or how, I can help you. Using a variety of different tools from design thinking, together we systematically come up with and test solutions before implementing, instead of throwing ideas on the wall like spaghetti and seeing which one works.
It’s a good start, S. I especially like starting with “If you…” because it signals right away that you’re focused on US, your listeners.
And, I’d recommend making it more conversational so it can roll off your tongue when you’re standing in front of a networking group. Something like …
You know how it is when you need to do something different in your business…and you might not be sure what that is? You could just try different things, and it’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. What if you had an expert to help you find the right solution and test it…so you know it’ll take care of the problem, whether it’s customer service or a website issue or communication among your staff. I’m S, and I use the tools of “design thinking” to get your business running smoothly.
My concern is that not everyone knows what design thinking is. So you might think about another phrase, or a quick parenthetical explanation that would clarify what you mean and why it’s important. Make sense?
Your suggestions are fabulous, Catherine! Very enlightening.
That is music to a coach’s ears, Sue. Thanks!