Have you ever had one of those momentary flash backs you just know dates you? I mean, really dates you? Recently, I did. It was in response to reading some networking advice that brought to mind a classic 90s song. You know, “things that make you go hmmmm….”
Included with standard advice, like exchange business cards and dress for success, was this gem: Memorize your elevator speech. Not only that, but the writer provided a recipe for what should be included; specifically, your name, web address, who you help, and what results you produce for your clients. Oh! And one more thing. The writer noted that you should deliver your (memorized) elevator pitch as naturally as possible.
Not only did it this “make me go hmmm,” but it seemed to suggest why people may resist meeting new people at events. Let’s face it. It is just too hard to be natural when you have to deliver a speech – even a short one! [Tweet This] So, if you’re not feeling you can do this, it can kind of discourage you from going, and from enjoying yourself if you do.
So, this got me thinking about some of the reading I’ve been doing on the craft of acting – particularly, improv. In his informative Acting for a Living, Roy McCrerey makes the point that it’s actors with improvisational training who are best suited to win work where roles call for people who come across as more real. Ironic, I know. Yet, the skills of improv can actually better prepare us for natural interactions than memorizing a pitch. [Tweet This]
Not only did this seem to validate my view that memorizing and elevator speech is wrong, but also suggested that learning some improvisational essentials is probably the best thing you can do. It is a way to help you think on your feet and engage people in fresh conversations that will be more engaging and memorable. So, here are three core improv principles with examples of how to apply them.
The “yes…and” technique
Here participants in a dialogue take what they are given and add new information to advance the conversation into new territory. It can be a great way to move discussion in an insightful direction. So, when a person you are speaking with mentions a problem or challenge you know something about, you can acknowledge (“yes…”) before adding (“…and…”) new, relevant, and useful information. Not only does this allow you to apply your general knowledge and expertise, but it also serves as the foundation for a mutually beneficial conversation.
Go with your gut
Just as improv actors trust their first intuitive thought, so should you. When genuinely taking an interest in and engaging others, you can’t go too far wrong in trusting your instincts as you interact. Besides, what you say is not immediately set in stone, so you can always ask for clarification to refine your response. The greater your personal clarity about what you know and do in your life and work, the more likely your responses will be on target.
Make others look good
The basic idea here is that there is no conversation without somebody else. So, it’s good practice to always acknowledge others who may be part of the conversation – whether it’s just one other person or members of a small group. Part of the key here, actually, is the wisdom of striving to be “interested” by listening and asking questions versus trying to be “interesting” by dominating conversation.
Great improv, it turns out, fosters great conversations. And great conversations are often a mix of shared advice and stories that happen beyond the edges of the script. And it’s beyond the script where emotional connection is made. [Tweet This] And after all, if you’re investing the time to meet new people, isn’t that what you really want?
What tips do you have for better conversations? I’d love to know. Just leave a comment.