Last month, I had the great privilege to hear motivational speaker W Mitchell speak to my local NSA (National Speakers Association) chapter. Mitchell, as he likes to be called, was a tremendous inspiration and made many great points throughout his talk. But, something that he asked during the introductions portion of the program really struck me, “What are you bringing to the party?”
As is the custom in many associations and groups, at the beginning of our luncheon, we go around the room, introduce ourselves and share our sixty-second “commercial,” a statement about what we do, who we serve, what we help our clients accomplish or something that we’re working on. Mitchell went last and he mentioned that many of the group’s members spoke very well andwere articulate and powerful communicators, but one person, he said, stood out from the crowd. That person was a Management Consultant, Author and Sales Coach named Lenann McGookey Gardner. While everyone else (including me) shared a little bit about their services, who they serve and what they hoped to get out of the meeting that day, Lenann chose a completely different approach.
Lenann shared a story about a recent client engagement that she had secured and how she got the work. She mentioned that she sent a holiday card to one of her former clients and after receiving the card, her former client inquired about her services. One thing led to another and she booked a training engagement with a global firm! In her sixty-second introduction, Lenann shared the importance of maintaining relationships with our network, including friends, colleagues and other contacts. She encouraged us to leverage social networking tools like Plaxo and LinkedIn, too, to stay connected and keep ourselves “top of mind” with the people in our network.
Lenann took her sixty seconds as an opportunity to offer us a useful tip for developing our own businesses. She shared her experience and knowledge, without promoting herself or expecting anything in return. She generously used her time to give us a gift and, in Mitchell’s words, she “brought something to the party.”
I wholeheartedly believe that networking, in large part, is about giving freely of your knowledge and resources. This idea was cemented for me after reading Tim Sanders’ book Love Is The Killer App: How To Win Business and Influence Friends. In this book, which is one of my all-time favorites, Tim introduces the concept of being a “Lovecat.” A Lovecat is someone who gives freely of their knowledge, network, and compassion without the expectation of receiving anything in return. And being a Lovecat isn’t only about adding value while at networking events - it’s a full-time job, which means that you can do it anytime, anywhere!
Focusing on how to add value is a great way to achieve networking success. How can you add value and “bring something to the party” at your next networking event or in the course of your daily interactions with people? What could you say or offer that would be of value to others? Could you share an important tax tip with your rotary club members, offer to lend a book to a colleague, share the name of a great IT solutions company with one of your competitors, or point a client to a great new resource from which they might benefit? You may even find that putting your focus on the value that you bring to the people in your network takes off the pressure of promoting yourself and results in deeper conversations that allow you to learn more about others and find a natural opportunity to let them know about the products and/or services that you offer.
You might also leverage social networking tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to share advice, tips and strategies with the people in your network. Doing so not only adds value but builds your brand identity in the process as well.
What will you bring to the party? The more stories that we can all hear about the giving nature of the Lenann McGooky Gardners of the world, the more likely we are to “pay it forward!”