Imagine shooting the breeze in the arena locker room with your University Alumni hockey team after a game. A local jail is mentioned in a joke and with a serious look the goalie says, “Oh no boys – that’s no joke. You don’t want to go to that jail. It’s pretty rough.”
Suddenly, the lively locker room goes quiet and all eyes are on the goalie.
He’d actually spent the night in that jail.
My friend Mike, who told me about this guy said, “he really could be the poster boy for Dos Equis’ most interesting man in the world”. When he speaks, everyone in the locker room listens because nobody has stories like he does.
That got me thinking, what makes someone interesting?
A lot of it is how you’re speaking and what you’re saying, but context is also important.
In a locker room of company CEO’s and executives, investment bankers and consultants, that kind of story is unique. In a different crowd of people, where jail time is part of many people’s family history, the story wouldn’t get as much attention.
So, context matters.
What else is important?
Here are five ideas to help you to be more interesting:
1 – Tell Great Stories
Roberto Monaco of influenceology.com originally gave me the idea to create a log or a database of stories that I can tell. Turn your story radar on, and note any experience or story you hear that you might be able to use in the future.
You probably don’t want to go to jail to get people’s attention with your next story, although if you’ve been, I can almost guarantee in most groups, that will make for an engaging topic and people will certainly remember you. It may not, however, be the best way to build credibility (depending on why you were in jail).
But maybe you’ve done something else that was pretty unique.
Whatever you do in your life and business, you’ll have stories to tell. There are stories in every situation. You just have to pay attention and think of the lessons or key points that can be made by way of one of your stories. Then, learn a few tips, like how to tell a Hollywood Story from the great Robert McKee, and start sharing.
2 – Being Different
What can people always count on getting when they work with you?
- Are you always organized, on time and solution oriented?
- Are you always creative and think outside the box?
- Or, maybe you are highly analytical, detailed and methodical?
Now, think about what you do relative to others in your industry.
1. When people work with you, what can they expect every single time?
2. What is different about what you do compared to everyone else in your industry or field?
3. Can you brand yourself so that an association is always there?
From the social media world, Mari Smith always wears Turquoise when she is networking and speaking. It’s been over eight years since I’ve seen her speak and I still think of her on Twitter and Facebook when I see that colour.
In the Canadian real estate world, Erwin Szeto built himself up as Mr. Hamilton by always wearing a Hamilton Tiger-cats jersey when he networks. Despite the fact I know many people who are real estate agents and investors in Hamilton, he is ALWAYS the first person I think about when it comes to Hamilton real estate because he made himself different, and created an association, through branding.
ZZ Top’s music isn’t extraordinary (at least it’s not to me) but their beards are. When you see someone with a giant beard you just might associate that beard with their music.
3 – Focus on what’s interesting to others
The default question when you meet someone is “what do you do?”
Watch closely what happens next time you’re meeting new people and someone asks that question. Usually it goes like this:
“So – James, what do you do?”
“Oh, I am an engineer at Engineers Ltd.”
“Oh, interesting. Have you been there long?”
“Ah – good. So I guess you like it then?”
“Yeah – it’s a good way to pay the bills. Ah … what do you do?”
Most people don’t light up and get excited to talk about what they do all day. If they are excited about what they do I promise it will come out in the conversation in other ways.
Your goal is to find what someone actually wants to talk about. Rarely does a question like “what do you do?” create engagement. However, “how did you meet your friend/your wife/your business partner?” can often be a great start. Or, “what did you do that was interesting on the weekend?” or even “what brought you here?” can be a good one depending on the context. You’ll probably still find out what the person does for a living, but you’ll also learn a lot of other important things about them.
If you do start talking about what they do for a living, you can ask a question like:
“What’s your favourite part of the job?” or “What’s challenging about that job right now?” Allow the person to showcase their expertise and you’ll learn more about them too.
Really you want to find a point of affinity or similarity to connect on. If you both have kids, dogs, a love of sailing, or went to the same school you will find some great things to talk about. Just be sure you’re not dominating the conversation assuming you have something in common they actually want to talk about it. Pay attention to their signals.
Being interested in others and watching for signs of true engagement will make you very interesting to talk to. Plus, now you’ll know what stories to share because you’ll know what they are interested in.
4 – Wait for the right time to tell your story
It’s easy to get mad at someone for not listening to you, but the fault is also often yours. When did you try to talk with them? Were they in the middle of something? Were there a lot of distractions already present when you began the conversation?
I lose my thoughts really easily when I get distracted so I try to tell my important stories to friends and family when there are minimal distractions. It doesn’t always guarantee I have attention, but it reduces the chances that someone will be distracted.
The smartest thing you can do before you share something important with is check to see if the person you’re about to speak with can actually can listen to you at that time.
It’s not always a good time to speak.
It’s also wise to know when to hold your stories back for the right setting.
There’s a danger in telling your best stories at the wrong time. You reveal just enough information that they don’t feel they need to speak to you more formally, but you haven’t actually told them what they really need to hear to make a decision to work with you.
You want to make sure you use the right material at the right time or it can be lost forever.
5 – Choose Concise and Clear Language
This is ‘get to the point, already!’
We, as humans, are less able to focus than ever before. As someone who wants to communicate a message and be remembered, you’re up against a big obstacle: lack of attention.
Keep your messages short and to the point as much as possible. But, in keeping them short, make them easy to picture and be a part of.
A great movie can become boring by extending the fight scenes on too long or spending too much time in any one scene. Even your best material might be boring if you go on too long. Practice your stories to hit your points and have an impact with the fewest number of words.
Before you know it, you’ll be remembered as the interesting expert, people will be reaching out after meeting and hearing about you.
1st Image Credit: ID 77258409 © Syda Productions | Dreamstime.com 2nd Image Credit: ID 20586590 © Aji Jayachandran | Dreamstime.com