Try this on, you crazy owl

Starting with WHAT we do rather than WHO we are puts us at risk of losing the opportunity to connect. When we bring our real selves to our interactions we are poised to co-create powerful connections. Proof positive of this ConnectAnd Improv principle was evident in our last session.

During the workshop, we used an adaptation of the improv exercise "Park Bench of Truth" to allow our "players" to get their first taste of public speaking. The exercise involves two players having a conversation with each other, in front of the audience. In our public speaking class, we use the "Park Bench" to relax participants' fear muscles and ease them into speaking in front of the group.

To get the conversations rolling we provide the players with a prompt, choosing the subjects spontaneously. The participants do not know each other before they volunteer to sit on "the bench" and chat. They're given two minutes and a purposely vague topic, and then they can take the conversation wherever it goes.

On this occasion the prompt was, "There's a car show coming to town. Will you attend?" The two women who were on the "Park Bench" began to talk immediately, delighting the audience (and each other) with their common bond. One woman talked about her passion for antique cars, which she restores with her husband. The other woman talked about how her first husband was a "gear head" who she met when she was 13. She talked about spending a lot of time in junkyards and under car hoods and they started tossing car jargon around like pros.

"you started with what instead of who? oy!"

"you started with what instead of who? oy!"

These two strangers got lost in the conversation and the audience was completely engrossed. They started with WHO and their conversation flowed, with humor occurring naturally. When their time was up the audience erupted in laughter and applause!

Because the players began with WHO and not WHAT they learned about a shared passion. If they had started with WHAT this wouldn't have happened; they're both accomplished executives, one a sales trainer and the other the leader of a statewide business development group. Surely, they would have defaulted to their professional connections and their shared interest in cars wouldn't have entered the conversation.

Start with WHO. Lead with curiosity. Share your passions. You might just make a phenomenal business connection that's deeper than WHAT you do.