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Published:August 15th, 2006 16:44 EST
The Secret of Networking

The Secret of Networking

By Terry Sumerlin (Mentor/Columnist)


For many years Sherry and I dreamed of steamboating on the Delta Queen.  The speaking cruises we`ve taken together have been very enjoyable.  Yet, this cruise was part of a bigger picture.  It involved a promise I`d made Sherry.

During our child rearing years, like many other dedicated young wives and mothers, Sherry decided to go to college part-time.  Though it was a very difficult 10 years, she (we) hung in there and received her education degree from Texas State University.

While she was grinding it out, she happened to read of the Delta Queen and became very interested.  So, I promised her that as a graduation gift we would cruise the Mississippi.  At the time she received her degree, however, that gift was out of the question.  We had two daughters in college, and were buying a barbershop.  The timing was not right.  Without canceling the trip (dream), we had to change our timetable.

After a few years, our circumstances improved and we booked an 11-night trip that took us up the Mississippi from New Orleans to St. Louis.  It was billed The Great American Steamboat Race. "

The race itself was between our boat and the Mississippi Queen.  However, competition between the two sets of passengers and crews involved many other activities such as the river trivia, the painting of patriotic banners and the talent show.  Sherry was on the 26-person committee that did a wonderful banner honoring the 200-year anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  It took first place!  I sang in the talent show.  Most would agree I speak better than I sing, which is why I missed the cut for the final competition.

At the talent show rehearsal, and then at the show itself, a rather curious thing occurred.   It involved a gentleman from the greater San Antonio area.  He treated us to a country and western song he had written.  He and the song were both pretty good.

As we were leaving the rehearsal, I turned to the gentleman and commented, You`re very creative. "  His reaction was, Do you really think so?  You think it was good? " 

I didn`t give his reaction much thought until later that night at the show.  Just before show time, as we were waiting in the wings (as they say in the biz), I asked the same fellow, How do you spend most of your time when you`re home? "  He then told me about the funds he`d raised and the worthwhile things he`d done as a small town mayor.

As a matter of curiosity, I then asked, What is your professional background? "  Since the average age of the passengers was deceased, I knew he was retired. 

I`m a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel, " he said.

Wow, " I whispered, with a sense of awe.

He shrugged his shoulders, as if to stay, It`s nothing. "

About that time, the show started, and I was left to think of how this distinguished military veteran and outstanding community leader got his feeling of importance.  Right then what counted was his few minutes in the spotlight and audience acceptance.   All other things that would otherwise seem very important to others, to him for the moment, were insignificant.  All he wanted to know was, Do you think I`m good? "

You may be saying, All this is well and good, but what does it have to do with networking? " 

Consider the following:  If the Colonel and I attended the same event this evening, what might he like for me to ask him about?  His distinguished military career, his time as mayor OR the songs he writes.  If Sherry were at the same event, do you think she would rather talk about her grueling 10 years of college OR the time of her life while painting the winning banner on the Delta Queen?  Do you think I would prefer to talk about my less than spectacular performance in the talent show OR my latest speech?      

BARBER-OSOPHY:  For a favorable first impression and immediate connection, always talk in terms of the other person`s greatest dreams, talents, concerns, or feelings of importance.


Copyright 2006, Terry L. Sumerlin.