Recently I read about a mom whose daughter was headed to the United States Air Force Academy. The mom was thrilled but she was having trouble explaining to her neighbors. She kept getting questions like, “But why doesn’t your daughter go to college? She’s really smart!”
That’s a mom who truly needs a story.
As a first draft, she could say, “Darlene’s always wanted to be a pilot. So she was thrilled when she found out the US has a special 4-year college that’s the best place to go if you want a flying career.
“Of course, there’s a catch: they’re even more selective than the Ivy League. So Darlene’s been playing rugby and studying science and doing a million other things. She knows it’ll be hard but …”
Of course, she’d need another story when her neighbor says, “But that’s not very ladylike, is it?”
“They just don’t get it, do they?”
It’s often hard to explain something you’re passionate about to people who have no idea those things existed. This challenge comes up at networking events, especially if you’ve got a new-to-the-world, one-of-a-kind offer.
For instance, I met someone who founded a company to help people find space for special events. I had trouble with the concept myself, till he shared his story.
“We were searching for a place to hold a birthday party for my teenage daughter. We wanted a place big enough for 30 people, where we could bring our own music and fix our own food. We couldn’t do that in a hotel meeting room, even if we were willing to pay the exorbitant prices the nice hotels charge in my city.
“Then a friend of a friend told us about a church that rented out its reception hall during the week. It was a great facility, conveniently located, with a really nice kitchen.
“So we wondered: how many halls like this go unused because nobody knows about them? And we bet there are conference rooms, meeting spaces and more.
“Since we’re well-connected in the tech world, we built an app. When you become a member, you get access to hundreds of great places. Let the parties begin!”
Get ready for those inevitable questions.
Besides networking events, you’re probably meeting new people when you go on vacation. If you’ve got the kind of family that does reunions, you’ll have lots of people asking you about your business as you assemble around the picnic table. Some of them will be as clueless as the friends of the Air Force mom.
So the holidays are a good time to polish up your networking story and maybe create a new one just for your family and friends, especially the folks you haven’t seen for years. You don’t want to blow them off or let them think you’ve lost your mind, but you don’t have much time to share.
And you’ll need to get their attention up front. Vacations, if they’re good, will be filled with distractions.
What about the strangers you meet on planes? The guests your well-meaning relatives invite for dinner? I’ll leave that to you. You have to weigh the tradeoff of wasting a lot of time with the possibility that they might be a good connection for you someday. That’s a combination of where you’re going, how you’re traveling, and your own connection karma.