When I wrote my first book, The Unnatural Networker, it took about 15 months to complete the first draft. There were two reasons for why it took what I perceived to be a very long time:
Firstly, I only fitted in writing around my day job with BNI. It was always a busy role, so I’d fit in an hour here, or a bit on a train journey there. There are plenty of books written by authors who smash out 40,000 words in a couple of weeks – but that wasn’t my style.
Secondly, and far more crucially, was that I spent the first 9 months or so messing around. I’d start on a topic, write a couple of hundred words, and then I’d dry up. A lot of staring at the screen (and out the window) would ensue, and then I’d end up deleting everything I’d just written.
I didn’t have confidence that what I was writing was any good. I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. I wondered (a lot) about whether anyone would actually want to read what I was producing.
Then, one day, I had a conversation a colleague in the office. I was telling him about my writer’s block (can you have writer’s block before you’ve even written anything?) and we discussed both my subject and the issues I was having.
The book was always going to be about networking – as the National Director for BNI, a networking and referral organisation, that was a no-brainer. But what I was lacking was an angle.
Given I’m a bit of an introvert, and I’m far more comfortable in the company of my friends than spending time with strangers, it made far more sense to write about networking from the perspective of someone who doesn’t find it enjoyable. The Unnatural Networker was born.
When sitting down to write after that, it was completely different. The words would flow because as I covered each of the sections I was writing with clarity of message and an overall purpose. Not only that, but it was easier because I didn’t have to force anything – I was just being me.
There was another reason why this is important too – writing as the Unnatural Networker made sure that I stood out. Browse the books available on most topics, and there are many available. But how many books are there on how introverts should network? Some, of course, but far fewer.
That has gone on to give me benefits as I’ve built a public speaking business. Niching down from a generic ‘networking’ expert to ‘networking for people that don’t really like networking’ means I am known for that topic. Sure, it means I don’t get some opportunities – but I do get more of the opportunities that I want – namely, ones where I’m speaking to people just like me.
That little story brings me on to the main point of this article. You’ll no doubt have heard about the concept of focusing on your Why – if you haven’t, make sure you read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why. If you haven’t got time to read the book, then you can check out the 3rd most watched TED talk of all time – Sinek’s ‘How great leaders inspire action’.
His point is that people don’t care what you do, or even how you do it. They care why you do what you do. The problem is, many businesses only really talk about what and how.
To make your messaging compelling, he argues that the order should be: Why / How / What. Take these examples from when I’m pitching my services to organisations to speak and motivate their teams about networking. I could say:
I will help your teams get better results from networking [what], and I’ll do that by helping them to get over their fears of attending a networking event by showing them how an Unnatural Networker does it [how].
Alternatively, how about this approach:
The world is full of businesspeople who don’t feel comfortable talking to strangers, whether that is because they are shy and introverted, or because they lack the confidence to do so. But that means they struggle to network effectively. I believe that everyone should be able to benefit from the incredible results networking can create [why]. I’ll do that by helping them to get over their fears of attending a networking event by showing them how an Unnatural Networker does it [how]. The result will be that your teams get better results from networking [what].
The difference is clear – and when you are speaking, communicating and generally sharing your own Why, your message will become so much stronger.
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