Today at a luncheon meeting, I spoke to about 30 business professionals about Applied Improv training for business and life skills. I wanted them to taste how effective it is to help them learn to confidently express themselves and make courageous choices in the world.

As people walked in to the luncheon, I asked them to select an object that “spoke to them” from a table where I had placed a pile of objects. There was everything from a rubber duck to stick-on tattoos, petrified bones, stuffed toys, art objects, metal tools, and assorted boxes with words.

In my talk, I spoke of the three foundational rules for improv and showed examples of how these apply in performance and how these apply to life. I shared personal stories from business adventures as well as my personal life.

Before I wrapped up my presentation, I asked them to introduce themselves in this way. “Give your name and the company you are with and tell us 1-2 ways why you are like your object.” I demonstrated with a piece of vertebrae, saying I was like the bone because age had smoothed out some of my rough edges, and I lived a fairly transparent life.

I listened as people went around the room, some identifying why they were like the object, some saying why they picked the object, and others why their business was like the object. I sensed that the exercise called on people to be self-revealing in a way that was pretty unusual in this setting.

I wonder how easier connections would be if we let down our guards at some of these networking events and just shared ourselves. Not the self that needs to sell, convince and compete. That self is always quick to have the last word.

What if we showed up as the people we are on the inside? How refreshing it might be to meet the person who falls down, gets hurt and tries again. The person who is confused and not sure which way to go next. The person who wants to grow and develop as a person as well as grow their business.

Sometimes it seems like there are real people hiding inside the business suits and we can’t quite reach them at networking meetings. If we played a bit more at being real inside these meetings, we might create more collaboration and less competition with everyone there.

How much easier would it be to trust someone selling you something if you knew that person had your highest interest at heart? That person really cared who you were, what you needed, and what inspired you? Even where you hurt?

Don’t just sell someone. BE someone.

What helps you be effective at these networking meetings? What are your pet peeves?