Speak about real Experiences – become a Storyteller

A couple or weeks ago I wrote about the importance, when speaking to network meetings, of answering the question “What do you do?” in a way that tells people how you can help them. I said then that I spend quite a lot of time on my Presentation and Communication Skills for Networkers Workshop on this topic. Still my frustration has always been that despite the fact that I get people early in the day speaking with passion, the moment I tell them to talk about their job they revert to boring corporate speak.

Last week running another workshop by accident I seem to have stumbled on the answer. One delegate, Liz was struggling with how to use stories in a speech about her work as a recruitment coach. “How specifically do you help people?” I asked. As she started to answer generally I asked her to be very specific. She started to tell a story about one client she had helped to be more effective in job seeking but still wanted to keep it anonymous and rather general. “What is her name? What was her problem? How did you help her overcome that problem? I asked.

As Liz became specific about the case, as she started to tell the story her passion and animation returned and I realised what was happening. People take a story and then generalise it instead of retaining the individual story. I immediately started to ask other delegates to tell me their stories – and all were doing the same thing.

Having identified the problem, with a bit more guidance and group diasussion I managed to get most of them to switch to telling specific stories about how they had helped a named client(they could change the name if the felt more comfortable). For the first time I saw these business networking presentations start to come alive.

So if you are explaining what you do at a networking meeting – either one to one or to the group let me suggest a simple approach.

First answer the question, “Who do you specialise in helping and how do you help them? Be very specific – No one person is able to sell to everyone. We all have a niche or preferred market and the more you focus the more successful you will become.

When you have the answer to that clear in your mind, pick a client who typifies the kind of work you do and then answer these questions. “What is their name? What was their problem? How did you help them overcome that problem? You are not trying to sell yourself to an entire audience at a networking meeting – what you are trying to do is make sure that everyone understands clearly what you do – and a real story is the best way to do that.

OK it’s possible that only one or two people in the audience will identify personally with the story and approach you, but when you are presenting at a networking meeting the audience is not your target, especially if they are women. You want is for them to recommend you to their network. You want them to be thinking, “That’s exactly the problem my friend Jane has – I must tell her about this.”

Telling a real life story is the most powerful way to convey what you do and how you help people in a way that is memorable and likely to result in people referring you on to their friends.

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