From networking torture to networking joy? Try WHO not WHAT

Has this ever happened to you?

Last night I was at a networking event with about 40 dynamic, interesting women. We were asked to participate in a lightning round of one-minute shares, answering questions about what we do/services we offer, what we need in terms of our businesses, and who we'd like to meet. Standard fare; cue the elevator pitch music. Gag, choke, eyes roll back in head, fall over from boredom, zzzzz…..

Enough with the same old introductions that focus on the WHAT of our business lives!

What distinguishes you in a crowded marketplace is WHO you are far more than WHAT you do.  

Want some proof? Do a quick mental review of the last three people you met with the same title and product/service.
How do you remember them more? By their title and company name or by how they behaved andmade you feel? By their product or by theirpersonality

I love seeing this in action, so what did I do in that lightning round? 
I went off script.
After everyone had shared the required information I asked, "Tell us one thing about you that we couldn't possibly know." This question always elicits what people want to share about themselves, which is so much more effective. 
Wouldn't you remember these interesting things about people?...

One woman was part of a collegiate synchronized swimming team that won a national championship. Another shared that she and her husband agreed to divorce amicably over the weekend. I shared about my recent Master's Rowing Camp adventure. Each of us shared something personal and as we went around the circle we relaxed, connected, and laughed a lot.

Leading with WHO we are can be a challenge in a world full of meaningless card swaps, elevator pitches, and scripted exchanges. It's our willingness to ditch the script, engage our curiosity and share generously that will differentiate our businesses and brands. Next event you're at, go off script and focus on WHO!

-Ellen Ornato