Meeting new people -- whether in a formal networking event, at a party, or even in the cabin on a long airplane flight -- can be an opportunity for your business. Such new people could become valued investors, employees, customers, or business partners.
But turning strangers into assets for your business starts with how well you (and the other person) answer a simple open ended command: 'Tell me about yourself.' If the answers reveal shared values, a common vision of the future, and skills that complement each other, such conversation can make you and those former strangers better off.
Even poor conversations can help save you time if they don't work out -- due to wildly different values, vision, and the absence of mutually helpful capabilities -- by keeping you from working together in a business setting. But under better circumstances, they can lay the groundwork for future collaboration.
The best way to answer the 'Tell me about yourself' command is to tell a story. As CNBC reported, Yale's Office of Career Strategy recommends that you craft a so-called motivational story which in two minutes explains how and why you became interested in your current line of work.
Below are three keys for a highly effective motivational story and how to apply each element to crafting an effective networking conversation.
How you deliver a story makes a big difference in whether you can engage other people and find projects on which to collaborate productively. Start by asking about the other person and listening thoughtfully to their answer.
When you speak, look the other person in the eye, convey a range of emotions in telling a story. Ask the other person if they have felt similar emotions or had the same experience. Use humor to bring someone to your side and share appropriate credit with others -- including the role of good fortune -- in telling your success stories.
In addition to being likable, avoid trying to project what you think someone else expects of you. Puffing and fakery show a lack of respect for your listener and reflect an underlying lack of self-confidence.
Highlight the challenges and activities that truly motivate you and don't be afraid to discuss the kinds of situations and environments which reduce your motivation and effectiveness.
Once you have a preliminary response to 'tell me about yourself' you ought to practice it with people who know you well. Get their feedback on which parts of the story and your delivery are most effective -- and which need more work and why.
And when you've refined your motivational story, try it out in increasingly important networking situations. By building a network of people who share your values and vision who can complement your strengths, you'll be on a path to greater shared success.