How to lie and win friends (and business)

Photo courtesy of Flickr user spotreporting.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user spotreporting.

Imagine you’re invited to a dinner party for 12 people. You know one of the two cited co-hosts, but you are not privy to whom the other guests will be. You’ve been told they will come from all walks of life, brought together by the commonality of knowing one or the other co-host, but all guest identities are a closely held secret.

There are costs involved. You will be expected to pay for your meal, beverages, and tip at a moderately-priced restaurant. Likewise, there is a personal investment to be made: You are asked to bring, the night of the event, three statements about your life. Two of the statements will be true, and one will be false. (Telling how many children you might have, or what you do for a living, is taboo. The idea is to reveal interesting factoids about yourself that most people would not know.)

For example, my statements might be: “I once had lunch with James Carville while in Washington, D.C.” “I went shoe shopping with Robert Kennedy, Jr. in New Orleans,” and “One of my three dogs is a trained circus dog confiscated by the humane society due to abuse. He can ride a little bicycle.”

The night of the dinner, you bring a notecard with your short statements on it. You’re welcomed by the host you know and meet the co-host you don’t, and then, as guests arrive, you are introduced to a state supreme court judge, a [blind] garage band musician, a technology company CEO, an emergency room nurse, a recognition/awards business owner, an advertising creative director, a community activist, a state legislator, a postal clerk, a manager of a title company, a short-order cook, and a bank president.

One of those people, as you will learn as the “Two Truths and a Lie” game unfolds, was jailed in Panama for three days. One of them (not the nurse) saved a life using CPR. One (not the legislator) went jogging with Bill Clinton. One plays saxophone with the U.S. Army band. One left home at 16 to rent her own apartment and assume an adult life independent of her family. Another person was featured on American Bandstand. Seven of the ten guests manage to fool the group into believing a lie versus the true statements.

During the dinner, you decide you’d like to do business with two of the guests. You’ve gotten to know a surprising amount about them and their philosophy during the two-hour eat-and-play time. You leave with lots of interesting stories to tell about your experience, and your network has expanded into regions that you otherwise would never have imagined. You’ll never forget the evening of shared laughter, revelation, and adult play.

At least, that’s the feedback that Lisa Nelson and I get when we host “Dinner with Jody and Lisa” parties. She’s the Public Affairs Director for Wal-Mart, covering several Midwestern states, so everybody wants to meet her, of course. When I decided to do these dinners, I purposefully chose a co-host who would have an entirely different circle of acquaintances, and she sure does! I can tap into many businesses; she provides a surprise politician or labor leader or activist. We both invite 5 people, so the burden isn’t on either of us to coordinate it. The idea is that guests don’t work together routinely, so everyone has a new circle to explore around the table.

Amazing things have happened the nights of our dinners, which we host whenever we feel like it (usually monthly), since our only cost is our own meals – though sometimes we spring for dessert for the group. One evening, a couple weeks prior to the Wisconsin governor’s election, an ardent supporter of Scott Walker (a very conservative legislator with lots of seniority) completely baffled the group. A “truth” was the statement that if Walker was elected, the teacher’s union would be disbanded. We didn’t believe that would be possible…. At another party, a young president of a new tech startup company met a bank president who, over dinner, became fascinated with his scientific inquiry. The banker later decided to make a significant investment in the company.

Mentally pick a co-host and your first round of guests. What would your event look like? Where would you host it? (Lisa and I pick restaurants in different areas and allow guests to reserve a seat at whichever venue they prefer.) We discourage home parties; the cost, preparation and cleanup time becomes a hassle. This is all about networking with minimal investment. Try one party and we think you’ll be hooked – it’s that much fun to host!

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses -- the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.

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