Last Monday afternoon, I had the honor of speaking at two of Professor Niklas Myhr’s business and marketing classes at Chapman University. We talked about many of the different ways I’m using the internet and social media to expand my sphere of influence and build new relationships around the world. I shared ideas and examples about how the students can start doing the same thing.
One of the approaches I tried to highlight is just how powerful storytelling is when it comes to making your point and impacting others. Without telling them I was doing this, I started off my presentation with the story about when I decided to become a lawyer and during the process, how I learned how important it is to develop and build good long-term relationships.
The Story I Shared
Although not in as much detail, I shared my personal story about not being too comfortable around professionals while growing up. My focus in school was on almost everything other than academics and because of this, I just didn’t think I was smart enough to contribute anything meaningful when communicating with people like company executives, doctors and lawyers.
In my last year or two of high school, a new neighbor moved in up the street and he happened to be a lawyer. Just between us, the first time I met Fred I was extremely intimidated and didn’t say much. This guy was one of the smartest people I had ever met and I was afraid of saying something that would make me look foolish.
Over time, Fred started to join me on my morning runs. My dad and I spent many weekends dove hunting with him in the early cold Arizona mornings and sometimes we’d fish at Pena Blanca Lake down by the Mexican border. On long weekends, we’d cross over into Mexico and scuba dive in the Sea of Cortez. We got know each other pretty well and eventually became good friends.
Spending time with someone hunting, fishing and camping on the beaches really gives you the chance to get to know someone. For me, I learned that Fred was just another one of the guys. Sure, he was a successful lawyer but outside the courtroom he was easier to hang out with and talk to than most people.
Fast forward a few years. In college I had a few friends who, at one time or another, needed the help of a good lawyer. Guess who I referred them to?
I shared Fred’s name with all my friends and even one college professor. I trusted Fred and because of our conversations and experiences, I knew he was a man of good character and an excellent trial lawyer. Because of our relationship, he was my “go to” guy when it came to legal matters and referrals.
Fred is no longer with us. He left his own unique mark on the legal system in Tucson and Arizona law. Even though Fred is not around anymore to make me laugh or give me advice, the life lessons he taught me about the importance and power of relationships are still embedded firmly in my mind.
My Concluding Thoughts
People do business with other people because of the relationships they build. While my relationship with Fred was built before the internet was around, I told the Chapman University students that I use the same principles today, in an even more effective fashion, to build relationships using social media.
I know that, for whatever reasons, many people don’t trust lawyers. Some are even a bit intimidated by them. Because of this, many people avoid calling lawyers when they need legal help. This can be a big mistake because when they finally do get the courage to call, often times the damage is done and it’s too late to help.
Understanding all this, one of my goals on social is to be a digital version of Fred. I always want to be myself and knock down the unnecessary artificial barriers that might possibly keep people from connecting with me. I want people to feel and know that it is OK to contact me and talk. It’s no big deal. I’m just like their next door neighbor and enjoy helping people.
My primary message to the students is that social allows you eliminate barriers and connect with people on a scale like never before in history. I encouraged them to embrace this new digital technology and human evolutionary process and use it to their advantage.
Just like I learned that Fred enjoyed jogging, hunting, telling good jokes and scuba diving, I reminded the students that they can use social to show and share their interest and passions with the world. I wanted them to know that it’s OK, in fact critically important, to remind others that you’re human and have a family and life just like your client or customer.
Yes we did talk about the specifics of certain platforms and the importance of approaching each platform in the right context. But, I think when the afternoon was all said and done, the message I was really trying to share was that when it comes to building a digital footprint, everything you do online should be focused on helping, building trust, and developing relationships.
I also reminded the two guys talking in the back of the room who were sitting next to their skateboards propped up against the wall that often times in life, people never get a second chance to make a good first impression. I understand where they were coming from because that was me in high school and college. In any case, they both “got it” and participated with good questions and comments during the rest of my presentation.
I never thought I’d say this but I really enjoyed going back to school. All of these young adults are going to do great things in this world. If they take me up on my offer, I can’t wait to do all I can to help open doors for them. A few have already reached out to me on Twitter. What happens next is of course up to them!
Here are some pictures from Monday afternoon and some of the students shared their thoughts on Twitter using #NiklasandMitch. A partial summary of tweets is below.