I’ll be honest with you. There are two things I don’t like very much: waking up early and dressing up formally.
And yet there I was this past Tuesday morning, getting into my car at 6:30am, all shaved and showered in full, sport-coat-wearing, business attire.
I was on my way to an early morning networking meeting in Lexington (MA), about 20 miles from where I live.
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The event was put on by my friends Jeremy Bromberg and Victoria Nessen Kohlasch (nicely done, you two) who took the initiative to rent a meeting room and invite about 30 solo business professionals.
No agenda, no speaker, no place to even sit down. Just a room with food and a chance to stand around and meet some new people.
The only formal segment of the entire 90-minute session, in fact, was when Jeremy invited us to introduce ourselves and, as part of that, “tell us something interesting about yourself.”
So we did. We got in a big circle and introduced ourselves, in order, around the room.
20 minutes later, after we had all spoken, I realized something very interesting. I share this with you now:
- Of the 30 people, I could only remember the occupation and/or business focus of about five.
- Of the 30 people, I could remember at least half of the “interesting things.”
There was the guy whose house was going on the market that afternoon; the woman with the three kids under the age of five who was just happy to have showered; the guy who was “obsessed with tuna fishing” (don’t ask, I don’t know either); the woman who had the same first name as her cousin’s last name.
Even now, three days later, I could still list a bunch more if you gave me a few minutes to think about it.
Intriguing, isn’t it?
You’ve got all these professionals in the room together; people who are there, ostensibly, to make connections and generate more business for themselves. And yet when they explain what they do, it tends to be unremarkable and, as a result, unmemorable.
I know, I know. You think you stand out from all the other financial planners, or health care consultants, or life coaches, or whatever it is you do. All I can tell you is that in a roomful of people (let alone the world at large), we all kind of, sort of, look the same.
Professional, capable, well dressed? Absolutely. But all the same, nonetheless.
Personal information, on the other hand, is nearly always unique. There was just one tuna fish guy. One shower woman. One house for sale man.
And that’s the point.
Because when it comes to standing out as a solo, the differentiators are not your skills, your experience, or your capabilities. Yes, you need all that. The problem is, everyone else has them too, in equal number and quality.
If you want to stand out and be remembered, you need to do more than just tell me what you do and why you’re so good at it.
Instead, try to talk, write and connect with people at a much more basic level.
Because when the talking is over, it’s your human side – your hobbies, personality, interests, family, pets, experiences – that will keep you in my mind the longest.
Let me know if you want to borrow my dog.
Thanks for not telling everyone I said I pimp my kid.
And, not that I really care about such things, but you clean up nice.
Your secret is safe with me, Jeremy! (You clean up pretty nice yourself.)
We always say “passion sells.” Whn you share what you are passionate about (tuna fishing, bacon, your dog) people connect. Great piece.
Thanks Victoria! And thanks again for making the event happen. Most fun I’ve had a 7am in a while….
This is good advice. I use a variation of this as a starting activity when giving seminars to get attendees to know each other a bit better.
Thanks Bob, that sounds like a great idea. (And looking forward to meeting you in Chicago next month!).
I just stumbled upon your “Every Story Tells A Picture” article from May 2013 (good thing I’m not a fireman, not great response time!) I think a have some hard evidence that your claims are true! As a matter fact, I have over 50 examples. Please check some of them out at Yoularoid.com
I think you’ll like them AND they are working extremely well for my clients…and you know why!
Thank you. You answered a question for me that has lingered in the back of my mind for awhile.
Why we remember some people but not others.
I just started my writing business in which I specialize in Case Studies and Customer Stories. I love hearing people talk about their challenges, how they meet them and win the day. I got hooked on interviewing people while doing a pro bono project for my grand daughter’s Karate instructor.
The man was fascinating. He had created a dojo by going door to door and getting clients. He just moved into his new, larger dojo. The one quote that I found unforgettable was that being a small businessman, he constantly worries about how to stay in business and pay the family’s bills, “It keeps me awake at night,” he said.
I now know what he means.
You have given me a clue on how better to write my case studies.
PS What kind of dog do you have?
Thanks for posting. I love your karate-man quote. I agree with what he said too. It seems not being able to sleep at night is the price we pay as solos for not sleeping day long, which is the way it felt as an employee.
Not exactly sure what kind of dog we have. We got her used and she’s not talking, but I’d say a lab/golden mix!
Michael, You’re right on the money. I don’t need your dog, though. 🙂 I have an old soul grandson and his two younger chatty identical twin sisters when growing up gave me plenty of stories. My challenges with my Alzheimer Mother and how she drew me into her world rather than me trying to bring her into my world amazed students and workshop participants. As an adjunct professor and workshop facilitator, I am not permanent faculty or staff. I “hang” with a diverse population. However when former students see me on the campus, they’ll call out, “Hey Professor, how are the twins and Sean?” They’ll even tell me to give my Mom a hug. I do not remember their names. I do remember something special about them. Be blessed, You keep me on my toes 🙂