Thursday, June 24, 2010

An expert & a cocktail party

Recently I was having a conversation with a professor from the University of Washington. He had some wonderful advice that is simple but still represented a light bulb going off in my mind. His advice was simple:
-Be an expert in a category with enough knowledge that you would be able to intelligently be able to talk the entire time at a cocktail party.

What this means:
Often when we go to networking events, parties, etc. We are thrust into conversations with new individuals and need to be able to have an intelligent conversation. Be it a simple party at your friends house or a who's who at a Single Malt Scotch tasting- frequently the conversation turns into one person or the other talking about themselves, bantering about politics, and we leave not having learned anything or having added a new person to our network. What this professor was suggesting is the following- Pick a topic of interest (social media marketing, best practices for some topic, psychology of decision making, etc) that while specific, applies across a broad range of businesses. During your conversation, use this expertise to guide the discussion, find out a problem/struggle they are facing and have a conversation about it. At the end of the night the people you have engaged with should walk away thinking several things:
  • Wow that was a great conversation!
  • I learned something new that is applicable to my business or life
  • That person would be great to talk with again
If they leave the conversation thinking these things, you are likely to be able to have more conversations with this individual in the future and have thus, added someone to your network. As the evening is wrapping up and the conversation is going well, I tend to offer to meet the individual for coffee or to continue the conversation on the phone. If they agree, you exchange business cards or numbers and continue on your way. Be sure to follow up with them a few days after your first exchange.

So in wrap up- pick a topic, learn a lot about it, and start talking.

Once you've identified a topic you like, here are some good resources for you to use:
  • University/Local Library (they have access to academic articles and databases with cutting edge research)- You want to have read the cutting edge research and be able to reference studies and authors who have studied your subject
  • Google/Web to an extent

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