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Business Storytelling Tips – Use Stories to Boost Your Networking Impact

Business Storytelling Tips – Use Stories to Boost Your Networking Impact


Coming up today – we’re going to talk
about how you can get more out of networking and why and how storytelling
can be your secret weapon to really get better results. And have I got a guest
for you today. I’m delighted to be joined today all the way from the UK by Charlie
Lawson. Now Charlie is a pal, he’s a speaker, he’s the author of this fine book –
which is called the unnatural networker, just a super-duper read book – he is
also the head of BNI in the United Kingdom and Ireland and BNI, for
those of you don’t know, is Business Network international – the single biggest,
world’s leading referral organization… with 220,000 members. So what a person to
speak with on this topic. Charlie. Hey how are you going? I’m good
thanks Eamonn. Good to be on. Hey listen. So before I get into
the whole area of why and how you can use stories to be a much better
networker: Tell me first of all, why should business leaders, business owners,
be concerned with networking in the first place? Why the bother? It comes up
in so many situations be it as a business owner, be it as an employee…
because someone who wants to try and find a new job. You know what? Honestly,
networking is around us the whole time. Networking is just a badge we put on
something that’s actually just talking to people. That’s really all networking
is – building relationships with people and talking to them and getting to know
them better. And we call it networking because it’s in a work
context, if you like. But actually, how many people have actually just gone out for a
meal with some friends or come for a drink with someone or had a coffee with
a client? It’s all networking. You’re running a business. You want the phone to
ring. You want orders to come. And you want clients…You’re gotta go
and find them, you’ve got to go meet. You’ve got to do it. Absolutely that. Well, one
of the things that struck me about your book – and I love the fact that you said
that you know ‘networking for you’ didn’t seem like a totally natural thing
to do yeah…I guess my question is that I know you’re a huge fan of stories as a
way of absolutely upping your results. Why is that? And why does it actually make
your job easier? Well you know what – for me- everything when it comes to the
networking is I have to kind of force myself to do it. If I was given the
choice, I probably wouldn’t go and talk to that stranger or go to that event. I’d
hang out with my mates, if I could, because that’s easiest. I don’t have to
put myself out my comfort zone. But when I’ve got to the situation where, let’s
say, I’ve gone to a networking event and I’m taking myself out of my comfort zone…
I’ve gone and done it …What I’m then thinking is: Oh my word. What if this
person thinks I’m really dull? Oh my word, is this person listening to me? Oh my
word is this you know.. how is this conversation going? I’ve got all these sort
of insecurities and doubts in my mind. So what I found is…if you’re me in a
conversation where I’m just reeling off dull facts about my business…I mean, how
many times have you been to a networking event when you meet someone and you ask
them what they do and they tell you they’re an accountant? Dull as
ditchwater! It’s not. It just doesn’t make an interesting conversation. And I, the Unnatural Networker am then concerned. Look, I want something to
come from my network. I mean people to sort of want to engage with me again. I
want them to enjoy the conversation. Yeah. That’s where stories come in. Stories
actually educate exactly what you do. You don’t have to list off your products or
service because you’ve illustrated how they…how they work.
I guess the best way to describe — let me tell or share a very quick story about a lady
who was a travel agent. And at about quarter to 6:00 on a Friday evening, the
phone rings in the office and she picks up the phone. And there’s a person on the
other end of like who is clearly very upset. She’s crying. Something… something’s
going on. Ask the lady what’s wrong and she said this lady was due to get
married the next day…the challenge being they were then to depart for the
honeymoon on Sunday. The flight to the West Indies, where they were going on the
honeymoon… there was a baggage handler strike. There
were just no flights to the West Indies! That’s obviously a bit of a problem. And
she was effectively asking “look, I know it’s short notice. Is there anything you
can do? And the travel agent said: look let me let me see what I can do? I
can’t promise, but let me see what I can do and just asks one question: where are
you gonna be tomorrow morning? And she said well I’m gonna be getting ready
from my mom’s house. Let me see what I can do. Puts the phone down. Made a couple of
calls. Goes online and managed to source exactly the same package of holiday…it
was just to Hawaii not the West Indies, the same day, same sort of specification,
same quality of hotel & all those sort of things. Next morning she went around to
the lady’s mom’s house: So look, I managed to source you this. I hope this is okay.
Normally there’s a £150 late booking fee, because this is this was a rush job.
But hey, my wedding present to you: I’d like to give you this today and I hope
you have a lovely day and have a lovely honeymoon. In the story, my question is:
Would most people want to refer business to that travel agent? Great service. Went
the extra mile. You know. Very good at… all sorts of reasons might do that
yeah perhaps the real reason why you refer the business is
because you’ve heard a story about…and then if you think if you were in a
networking conversation – you have a conversation without that person. One, you
get engaged in that. It’s just well, you just wonder…what happens this poor
lady who wasn’t gonna be able to go on a honeymoon? You know. I want to know what
happened when she went away. Was it fantastic? I want to know. But you know
that’s the thing – it engages, it pulls us in…because we just want to know.
So the story explained everything about what the travel agent did in a
much more interesting way. I love that… because that story kind of lets the
other person in and it’s engaging. I’m more likely to remember it. But, let me
ask you a question: what would you say to people who when they go to networking
events they kind of like, you know when you’re asked as a child to recite poetry:
you want to stand up and be done as quickly as you can? So basically they
don’t take the time to connect with people to nurture a better relationship?
There’s a lot of reasons why I think people struggle with networking, from
various angles. You know some people have been to networking events where they
meet someone who’s a bit of a hard salesperson and they’re just giving out
their business cards like confetti. You know. Yeah. I mean it doesn’t really mean
anything you know. You can be.. a lot of people are quite introverted. I would say
I’m quite introverted. I’d probably say I’m a situational extrovert. I’d probably argue
if I’m speaking, for example, then I’m very comfortable talking to a room
of strangers. There’s no problem at all. But when it comes to going up one
to one… and I don’t know anyone in the room. Because I they have to go out of my
comfort zone to get into a conversation. When I do get into that conversation
actually it’s fine, it’s no problem. I have a nice conversation…maybe tell some
stories, like we’ve just been saying. At that point it would be uncomfortable to
go and find the next conversation. So I actually linger a bit longer with that
with the person I’m talking to. And that means I tend to build a better
relationship and the extrovert might look at it slightly differently. And I’m
not saying incidentally that there’s a right way or wrong way. It’s just a
different way. An extravert who’s very happy talking to people, really wants to
engage. They get energy from talking to lots of people. So they’re gonna get
around lots more people. Maybe they don’t talk to them for quite as long. Maybe
they don’t build quite such a good relationship with them in the time they
have – but they get speak more. I’d speak to less people – maybe spend a bit more
time. Yeah. Actually I’m a big fan of what you just said about actually taking the
time to be present with somebody. It’s interesting because you were talking
about introvert v. extrovert. I read something in the Wall Street Journal
talking about ambiverts – which is where most of us live…which is where you have
traits of one and the other. And that’s me. So as a speaker when you put me on
the stage, I’m perfectly happy. No problem. Exactly. Off the stage and then I’ll be much
more circumspect, depending on who I’m with. So let’s kind of dig into
that a little bit here. There’s a phrase that you used more than once in your
book and I think it’s a really important one which is this that ‘facts tell and
sorry stories sell’. For those people who who want examples of where and how stories
can really matter – can you think of anything that either…something you did
or something that you heard about where they told a story and delight was the
outcome? Yeah I always try to encourage — when it comes to telling a story — to aim
for some level of emotional attachment. That’s what you’ve got to get for
the emotion across. And often people get confusing. They think “No. Emotion…That’s,
that’s feeling sad, that’s crying, that’s …But it’s not just that.
Excitement is an emotion. Anxiety is an emotion. Jealousy is an emotion. There’s
all sorts of different emotions that can come up. And what you want to do is make
people feel as though they’ve got that quick story. I was doing a session on
storytelling not so long ago and I was talking about this emotional point and
there was a lady in the front row who I could tell was really uncomfortable – just
by her body language. And I said “look, clearly something’s going on here. And she was like ‘I run a payroll company. What’s emotional about payroll? And
everyone kind of laughs nervous laughter. I said: tell me about a recent client
you’ve done some work for. This client that I did some work with they had this
situation just before Christmas where it wasn’t the payroll company’s fault, it wasn’t
the the client’s…though it was the bank’s though. Something went wrong on
the bank end and this small business with about six or seven staff
didn’t get their paycheck. And immediately you could sense in the room like ‘hang on. we’re on to something here. We’ve got the emotional connection
here? What does she do about it? She went and from her own cash reserves. She drew
out money and effectively paid these people their December paycheck. And then
they got sorted out with the bank in the new year. No problem. It’s just it was
just a certain bank error. But the key thing is it’s finding an emotional connection…
what would have happened to these people if they’d not being paid at Christmas?
Clearly Christmas isn’t going to be such a jolly time. Thanks. I love that story
because it’s a great example…because, truth is, as you know, and you and I have
not talked about this before — that everybody has oodles
of stories. But oftentimes people won’t back themselves and, in fact, the interesting
thing is that when people get to the point where they share stories and their
personal stories — Universally, the reactions they get – despite the fact that
may have felt a bit vulnerable… sometimes actually really emotional,
also a little bit in terms of what they share..is that the human connection is just — it
takes off. Doesn’t it? That’s the key. You’ve got to find that human angle. And
I think when it comes to networking, in particular,
the challenge is what a lot of people do is focus on what they, the business, did.
You know? Take the payroll example…we hear a lot about well this is what I did…
I went to the bank they couldn’t sort it out.
We don’t care what this quote the payroll company did
in this case. What we do want to know is how the client felt both –
before they did this bit of work…Yeah… and then afterwards. They’re the two key
key key bits of information we want. Because then we hear how happy the client
was…And this then is the storytelling tip folks for any corporate story. In
general, you shouldn’t try to be the hero. To the extent that you can, give away the
hero badge to somebody else – where somebody else was better off…you’ll always get a better
reaction from the audience because they can see themselves in the situation. It just
becomes much more relatable. So, obviously, you would have
started in networking as somebody who was maybe a little bit unnatural, a
little bit uncomfortable with it…And you’ve learnt a great deal over time. But,
if there’s one thing that you’ve now learned about that human touch, that
human connection, that you were talking about earlier on –
that you wish you knew at the outset – what would that be? I think, for me, with networking…one of the key things you’ve got to do is ‘be yourself’. People
want to know who you are as a human being. That networking is relationship
building. For me, network is about three things: Firstly. You’ve got to get visible.
You’ve got to be, you know, you’ve got to build a relation.You’ve got to get to
know them. Shake hands in the first place. Impressions. Then. Get to know who they are.
Find out about them. That’s the visible stage. You’ve been going to get credible.
That’s the test of ‘are you any good?’. You know, do you do what you say you’re gonna do?
If you’ve got to see them in action… are they good at their business ,good at
what they do? And once you’ve got those two stages, you’ve got a chance to move
where we want to get to in a networking context — that’s profitability, as well as
perhaps an ongoing relationship between us. But referring business back and forth.
That’s what you want to get to. It’s not going to happen unless you are yourself
though. I think that would be the
key thing I’ve learned over time. Look, I knew this would be a great chat and
honestly we could chat about this non-stop for hours on end…But maybe we
can revisit this again. Because, I think that the whole notion of the
relationship development is such a rich topic. But, for today, can I thank you a
million Charlie for being here? An absolute pleasure Eamonn. And folks I hope you
found this helpful. And just to reiterate a few things that Charlie said here: it
is really about taking the time to be present with people, to nurture those
relationships and then watch things unfold. But be the person who acts as
the instigator. So until the next time, here’s to awesome storytelling and
speaking. Thanks very much Eamonn. Nice one.

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