Last week I received a request from someone wanting to connect on LinkedIn. His face didn’t look familiar. I accepted. Always happy to expand my online network.
I always send a welcome note.
“Hi there, thanks for connecting”.
“Would you be interested to work together?” he asks.
I check his profile again.
He’s based in South America working for an international organisation.
We schedule a Skype call.
You know that moment when Skype is connecting and you see the other person for a second before the audio kicks in? Well, when his face popped up I realised I’ve met him before but couldn’t remember where. I’m horrible with remembering names, but I’m good at remembering faces.
He greeted me with a big smile,
“Hey there! How ya doing? Umm… I’m really sorry, but you’ll have to remind me where we met.”
He goes on to tell me that we briefly met in the men’s toilet during a conference two years ago.
Two years ago? In the mens room?
“Oh yes! Wow! That’s right!”
It was a brief conversation. He had seen me creating sketchnotes at the conference and complimented me on my work. I can’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I was impressed with the fact he remembered me and my work after all this time.
What did I say that left such a long lasting impression?
What I do remember is that I had made the conscious decision to stop selling myself. I was constantly selling myself. I was running to every networking event I could find, pulling out my business card at every chance I got. I soon learnt that conversations build relationships, not business cards.
It takes time to build relationships. They don’t happen overnight. Sure it all begins with conversation. And yes, they take time. I’ve learnt the importance of taking your time. It gives room for a meaningful conversation. I’d like to be able to speak from my heart and not from the thought of “When will be the best time to whip out my business card?”
I do my best to avoid the question,
“What do you do?”
If I know what you do, and you know what I do, what are we supposed to do next? Exchange elevator pitches? Exchange business cards? My elevator pitch, let alone my business card, does not reflect who I am. I rather you do business with a person you can emotionally connect with than a person behind a business card.
Shall I ask,
“What are you passionate about?”
Would that be weird? OK, instead I could spark up a conversation about something completely unrelated and see what happens. Who knows where it may lead. I rather a good chat with a single person than hand out business cards to 20 people that I won’t be able to connect with. It’s all about the qualitative connections and not quantitative.
We can save the quantitative connections for digital platforms. I’m sure we all spend a fair amount of time on our emails and social media channels. I know I do.
I prefer to use digital platforms as a springboard to create an opportunity to meet over a nice cup of tea. (I recently gave up coffee) We forget that digital is a transactional language. I refuse to build a relationship on a digital platform that is designed to only transfer information. We are continuously speaking through machines. It sucks.
How much are we willing to investment in conversation?
How much are we willing to sacrifice for conversation?
I’m not sure how to answer those questions, but I do know for sure I’ll never miss the occasion for deep conversation.
The ingredients for a conversation are simple.
It has to be RELATABLE
It has to be EMOTIONALLY APPEALING
And you have to SHARE A STORY, or two
That’s my recipe for a memorable connection.
What type of conversations do you like to start when you meet someone for the first time?