This blog is about how to talk to people at networking events
If people tell me what they do at networking events, I rarely remember for any length of time. (That is, after all, why we hand out business cards that say what we do.) If I do remember, I have may well have misunderstood. The exchange is largely a waste of time for most people, given that most people aren’t trained to ask questions (your original point, I assume) or to listen to the answers.
(The place to learn about what they do is the follow up one to meeting I am continually advocating.)
Further, nine times out of ten, after the first few words of the answer, the questioner loses interest because, let’s face it, most people at networking events aren’t really interested in what other people do: they’re only interested in whether the other person might give them some work.
(Don’t mistake the veneer of British politeness for interest.)
So, when I talk about networking to clients, I suggest that, when asked “what do you do?”, they should reply, “let me answer that with a story”. And then they tell a story. As a representation of what they “do”, the story is incomplete, partial and possibly out of date. But, if told reasonably well, the story can be (a) interesting and (b) memorable. Which “I am an accountant” isn’t.
Telling a story at a networking event marks out the teller as different from the crowd (in itself a good thing); and provides plenty of hooks for the other person to ask supplementary questions (particularly if the hooks have been deliberately placed there). The hooks generate enough conversation for one or both parties to determine whether they would like a followup meeting with the other, which is presumably the point of going to a networking meeting.
So a marketing person might say:
“May I answer that with a story? I was working with a client recently and their problem was X. Well, that’s what they thought, but actually we worked out it was Y. This proved a bit tricky to address, because of P, Q and R. In the end I/they decided to do A, B and C. And, as a result, E and F happened for the client.”