I’m currently attending a conference called the California Nonprofit Technology Festival in Richmond, California. Like many conferences, there are break-out sessions, ice breakers, food, and most importantly, networking.
Whether you realize it or not, networking and the relationships you develop are SUPER CRITICAL to the success of your ideas, projects, and the general trajectory of your career. Who you know matters, and the higher the caliber of people and professionals you establish relationships with, the more likely your goals will be reached. Pretty simple, huh?
Well, I want to share a networking strategy I’ve used over and over again that’s incredibly powerful. It’s called Tale-spinning.
Tale = story, not the tail of an airplane.
1. Everybody IS a story
First, start with the idea that everybody is a story in progress. Go a little deeper and see that each and every project that they are working on is a mini-story within the main story of their lives. It’s important that you understand the narrative of the person you’re dealing with at the conference is much deeper, much more dimensional than the 5 minutes of interaction you have with them.
2. Discover challenges
Second, once you understand that there’s a story operating in the background, take some time to discover the obstacles & challenges they’re currently facing by listening and asking questions. Remember, they’re there for a reason, even if they can’t full articulate what that reason is. Help them get clear.
3. Collaborate and connect
Third, once you discover their real barriers, your job is to either:
- Collaborate with them on their problem by offering some specialized knowledge or a specific skill (if feasible), or….
- Connect them to somebody you know that can help them solve their problem. The people you connect them with can either be at the conference or within your personal network.
Simple, right? By doing all three steps you have the opportunity to alter the course of somebody’s life story, or tale-spin them in a new direction.
With Tale-spinning, you may only reach a few people, and that’s fine. This strategy stresses quality over quantity, because in the end, the name of the game is impact. It’s about how their stories progress and how people transform in the process.
Do you want to be followed or liked by the whole conference or do you want to impact someone’s life? Impact and quality are memorable, ‘follows’ and ‘likes’ are shallow.
“We’re here to put a dent in the universe.”
– Steve Jobs
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook
Gary Vaynerchuk’s latest book release is called: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – in the book, he gives case studies on successful social media campaigns. The primary strategy he employs to achieve his success (using his boxing metaphor) is to give, give, give, then ask.
You don’t begin a social media campaign by telling people to ‘like’ your freakin Facebook page, but people still ask. Why should I like your page?? Give me a reason, or better yet, make a dent in my life first.
And that’s the point. Don’t attend another networking event starting from the place of your needs and wants. Go to give, and give often. Gary says give 3:1, but even I know he gives way more than that for every ask he receives.
7:1 is a more powerful ratio that changes lives, and make you far more memorable than passing out business cards that no one will ever look at again.
I think 7:1 is reasonable, doable, and most of all, has long-term impact.
Does that mean you give seven to just one person? Is that seven spread out to three different people? You decide, but if you give it all to one person, you go much deeper.
Here’s an example. I was at a networking event in Seattle, and one guy I met was doing some cool work abroad. I genuinely listened, asked questions that were relevant and took the conversation deeper to help me better understand the challenges he was facing. Someone walked up and before they could introduce themselves, I said, “Have you met Daniel? He does ‘this and that’ and what’s cool about this is ‘this and that’ is….”
I realized I couldn’t help him, so I began talking to everyone there about him. I soon walked away and met another person in a similar space, so I began recounting the first guy’s story to him. Then I saw Daniel in mid-conversation and said, “Hey Daniel, I’m telling this guy about your business. You two should talk.”
Then I walked away. I found a woman who I thought could also contribute to his unique problem, and yelled over two people, “Hey Daniel, I think she can help you, too.”
By now, Daniel kinda felt obligated to me. He came up to me, and said sincerely, “I know you told me about your book, but I want to know more. I can help you promote it.”
Please listen. I don’t do this to manipulate other people. I genuinely want to help them. Tale-spinning and the tactics that support it could easily be used to exploit a situation.
You know your intentions. Don’t be evil.
Also, if you give, give, give and somebody takes, takes, and takes, then stop feeding them. Don’t give to people who will take everything you have and not even think of giving back. What’s the saying? Give someone an inch, and they’ll take a mile? Yeah, no mile types, they’re sharks and not good for the tale-spin ecosystem.
How can you tell a shark from a genuine contributor? Through practice and experience. I’m sure you’ve had some experience with selfish people. Learn from them, apply that wisdom, but don’t let that stop you from being vulnerable. Take risks, put yourself out there, and learn from your mistakes.
One more thing. If you decide to give seven to just one person, make sure you feel out the situation and don’t come across as overdoing it. There’s nothing more suspicious than somebody giving everything they’ve got to assist you, and they’re not asking for anything in return. So pay attention to context and feelings. Yes, there is such a thing as over-giving, especially with strangers, and I’ve definitely been guilty of that before. It makes you feel creepy.
Provide solutions. Give. Create value. Care. Help someone get past their obstacles and advance their stories, even if it’s just a little bit.
In networking situations, take the attention off of you for once. Be a Tale-spinner and make impact.
And don’t just save this strategy for conferences. Do this at work, at home, and try it in social settings. Everybody has goals, and goals have obstacles – these challenges must be overcome for them to advance their own life story.
Transformation is just around the corner for them – and for you.