Fearful Business WomanThey’re wrong when they say public speaking is the #1 fear of business people.

I know it’s going to a networking event and hearing someone ask, “What do you do?”

Oh the blather and drivel that comes out of our mouths! Here’s what to do about it.

Of course you know what you and your company do. So why do our brains turn to dreck when someone asks this simple question?

At one end of the spectrum are the people who answer with their titles. “I’m a lawyer.” “I’m an accountant.” To which we silently respond, “I’m outta here!” and quickly find someone else to talk to.

At the other end, we have the people who explain in excruciating detail. Our eyes glaze over at the three-minute mark. We could run their business when they’re done!

Chances are good that we have been one, or the other, or both at some time. Now be someone better.

Know Why You’re There

Your job is to say something interesting. From a persuasion perspective, that will lead someone from resisting to listening to you. This will spark a meaningful conversation where the two of you can determine if you can help each other—which is the purpose of networking.

Your Two-Part Answer

Use this template to create the first sentence you say every time someone asks:

I work with [ideal client] that wants to [pain you solve/benefit you offer] so they can [results you provide]

Use “work” rather than “help” at the beginning. It’s a stronger word.

The shorter you make this, the more effective you’ll be. If you’re running out of breath by the end, it’s too long—and you’ve lost everyone’s attention.   

Then you tell an interesting—short!— story about how you helped a client. Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to build rapport with people. (Learn why: Is It Story TELLING or Story SELLING?)

Here’s what I say: “I work with business leaders who want to use persuasive communication to increase their organization’s performance, productivity and profit.”

Then there’s a sample story: “I got a call from the president of a Chinese manufacturing company. Her largest U.S. client was coming for a plant tour. She asked me if I could write a speech for her. I said, ‘Yes, I can. But once I do, can you give it?’ We worked together to create a persuasive presentation and effective Q&A. Her client was so happy with the experience that they increased their business with her company.”

This opening sentence and story took about 30 seconds. So should yours.

Want five more tips on effective networking? Download this PDF: Are You NetWORKING or Just Doing NetWORK.

Don’t Be Full of Crap

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ll do this tomorrow.” We’re all full of crap when we make promises to ourselves and never keep them.

Now you have an effective system. Use it.

  1. Create your opening sentence—then edit it down to a few words.
  2. Practice this enough so it trips off your tongue without requiring any thought. This means you’ll need to say it out loud at least 100 times during the next two days.
  3. Start collecting client stories. Have a number to draw on, so you can say something that connects with or appeals to different people and industries.

Be one of the few people who actually loves it when people ask what you do!