Monday, July 16, 2007

What's Your Shtick?

This article appeared in the GLMV Chamber of Commerce Action News for July, 2007,

One of the major benefits of your GLMV Chamber is the networking opportunities. Some people seem to be born with social skills that make them thrive in those situations. As a kid, I was never one of them.

At my high school reunion, each person filled out a questionnaire. In high school I was {fill in the blank}. I filled in "invisible." But I'm getting better. At least, the attractive girls, who are now grandmothers, will talk to me now.

Last September, I went to Las Vegas with Dianne for a poker tournament. There, I got to talking to a guy named Jeff, from Pennsylvania, who managed a Home Depot store. After the tournament, I asked him what city he lived in. He answered, "Bloomsburg." I said "Bloomsburg, like in Bloomsburg State College?" He said, "Yeah, that's the college there." I then said, "Didn't Bob Tucker, the tight end for the Giants, go to school there?" He replied, "Yes, but I can't believe you would know that--you're from Chicago. Are you a Giants fan?" I said, "No, I'm a trivia guy." What amazed him was that, although Tucker played 11 years in the NFL, he retired in 1980, over 25 years ago. I wasn't perfect, however, I didn't remember Tucker's uniform number. Jeff told me, "Number 38" which was an unusual number for a tight end. I made a friend for life. Although I've traveled all over the country, I've never been to Bloomsburg.

I was one of those kids who read the World Book Encyclopedia from cover to cover. I won a trivia contest on a cruise ship by correctly answering that during the Middle Ages, the Pope lived in Avignon, France. My teammate asked, "How'd you know that?" I replied, "20 years of Catholic School." He said, "I didn't know you were Catholic." I said, "I'm not, I was just sh---in' you."

I could ask you: What do the following people have in common: Daniel D. Tompkins, Richard M. Johnson, William King, Henry Wilson, Thomas R. Marshall, and Adlai E. Stevenson? Putting Adlai Stevenson in that group would probably throw most people off the track, but the answer is that all were Vice Presidents of the United States, mostly in the 1800's. Pretty obscure names. None have their pictures on postage stamps or on the money. But maybe you can win a bet sometime with that. Or you can come up with something easier, like naming all the mayors of Rosemont, IL, while standing on one foot.

The point is that when networking, its helpful to have a shtick to keep the conversation moving. Knowing a lot of useless information works for me, at least for its entertainment value. Also, I try to hang around people who are smarter than I am, so I can learn something.

Find something that works for you. You don't have to be selling all the time. Take it slow and let people get to know you. If you're honest and look like you know what you're talking about, people will buy whatever you're selling.




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