Sometimes our best lessons come from children.   If you are a member of Rainmakers, you have probably heard me tell this story. I use it often as an introduction to an activity on communicating your value proposition clearly.

I was about three years old when my dad and I walked into a bakery. After he placed his order, he noticed I was staring into the glass display case with all the pastries. 2870559117 1cc50f6d68 o

He asked, “Lanie, do you want one?”

“Yes, daddy,” I replied enthusiastically.

The saleswoman handed me a round pastry, with whipped cream, and a cherry on the very top. As we turned to leave, the pastry fell to the floor. The saleswoman offered me another one which I was happy to accept.  As we turned to leave the second time it was obvious I deliberately dropped the pastry as soon as I ate the cherry.

“Lanie, why did you do that,” my father inquired. ( Right about now, I should mention my father was not a patient man)

“I only wanted the cherry,” I replied!

Don’t Mistake Cherries for Pastries
My father made a common mistake; assuming we were talking about the same thing.  Actually, he was talking about pastries, but all I saw was the cherries.

Anyone who has spent time with young children has had a similar experience.  Children enter conversations with a much narrower base of experience.  From this limited perspective they often miss the subtleties or even the main part of the conversation.

Adults Often See Just Cherries Too!
Surprisingly, this doesn’t change as we grow up.  We each enter conversation with limitations and gaps in our knowledge base. And yet, people often use technical or jargon-laden language at networking events.

The listener smiles politely, but has no real understanding of what is being said. The result – Instead of focusing on the message, and how they can help you, they are thinking about their next client, next conversation or possibly a lovely pastry with a cherry on top.

Let Children be an Example
So how do you engage someone who is unfamiliar with what you do?  The same way you engage a child.  Simplify the concept, making connections to things in their realm of experience.

Just for practice, before you head out to your next networking event, imagine you are about to enter a 2nd grade classroom, and the teacher has asked you to tell the children what you do!
If you can simplify the message for an audience of 10 year-olds, you can find something somewhere in between for a room full of adults.

Use these simpler, shorter sound bites at the next networking event you attend. You may be surprised to find the shorter answers and simple explanations are more likely to generate a response or question from the listener.

And because your listener has a frame of reference for your comments, you may end up with more referrals, sales, and the occasional cherry!