"Hello My Name Is"

by Laura Gemme

Do you cringe when attending networking events or meetings, or even avoid them altogether - thinking about answering the general get-to-know-you-question of "So, what do you do?" The way you answer that question will either capture someone's attention, or it will sound stale and lifeless, likely boring the person you're meeting - which is exactly the fear so many professionals face at networking events. The problem is, we usually bore ourselves with our answer to that question, so how are we supposed to engage others?

I recently read an article called "The Antidote to Pushy Marketing" by Robert Middleton, marketing expert. He was answering a question one of his readers submitted about her struggle to promote her business. She didn't like telling people what she did because she was afraid of turning people off by talking about herself and "going on and on" about something they're not interested in. His answer to her question could apply to our work with nonprofits and how we promote our missions when meeting new people. Are we boring others when we talk about what we do, or are we communicating our messages with passion?

When someone asks Robert Middleton what he does, he never talks about his business. He talks about the problems his prospects and clients are experiencing. And when he does that, most people do show interest.

The next time someone asks what you do, rather than simply telling them your title and organization and what you do with them, talk about the people your organization helps. For example, "I work with XXX organization and we help low-income residents find affordable places to live so that they can feel a sense of ownership and pride." That will generate far more interest, when communicated with passion, than saying, "I'm the Director of Development for XXX Organization."

If the person asks for more information, such as "What is your role?" respond by mentioning your title and saying that you build relationships with people who share your interest in supporting those residents. That way, if your organization's work resonates with that person, you'll know it almost immediately. You never know which of these new people may be your next donor, supporter, member, or who may introduce you to someone very useful within their network.

Use stories to further engage the conversation. Using emotion and illustrative examples will do more to peak someone's interest, than rambling on about what you do (which is what most of us tend to do when meeting someone new). Give an example of a family you've helped...their previous situation, and how that family felt when they moved into their new home. If you are passionate about what you do, that message will be compelling...and interesting to most people you meet. Step out of your comfort zone, and tell the wonderful stories of why you do what you do. As a result, you'll have livelier conversations and reap greater rewards for the mission you serve.

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