Should I have an elevator pitch prepared for networking events?
This is a great question, but the answer is very simple: No!
Just to review, an elevator pitch is typically a tightly crafted, clever-sounding statement that is used to introduce yourself in an impactful way when meeting influential strangers. The term 'elevator pitch’ comes from the concept that you should be able to deliver your pitch in less time than it takes to complete a typical elevator ride. There are certainly situations where a short, rehearsed statement works very well, for example, when you have to quickly introduce yourself in front of a crowd of strangers. However, overusing a prepared statement can be a total conversation killer.
Recently, at a local networking event, I met a real estate agent who had a prepared pitch. His pitch was pretty detailed and, for a few moments, I struggled to come up with any questions to ask him. He had already answered many of the questions I would have thought to ask. Just then, another person joined us, and, right on cue, the real estate agent repeated his pitch. Another person joined us, again, the same pitch. Within the space of about 15 minutes, as people came by or joined us, he repeated his pitch several more times.
While I commend him for being consistent with his message, I came away with the impression that he had nothing interesting to say. He was simply repeating his pitch. He also seemed very eager to share his pitch with anyone he could, so instead of having a conversation and trying to get to know me, he was off and on to the next available person.
For me, conversation is the main focus of networking. I'm trying to get to know the other person, and I’m trying to get them to know, like and trust me. That requires spending time talking to people and developing rapport. If you simply repeat your prepared pitch over and over, you can’t really engage people, and that to me is a big waste of a perfectly good networking opportunity.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Well, I don’t sound like that,” and maybe that is true, but many of us do get into a routine of trying to be overly consistent in how we introduce ourselves. We get into a rhythm and routine, and once we get comfortable, we start using the same phrases over and over and sounding the same all of the time – sometimes without even realizing it. In order to break that routine, we have to ditch the pitch!
So, where do you start? Be curious. Be attentive. Be yourself!
It’s as simple as that.
Ask questions. The easiest way to start a conversation is to ask a question. If you take an interest in someone, they are more likely to take an interest and get to know you. This is how relationships start, and isn’t that the real point of networking, developing relationships? If I meet you at a networking event and you get to know me, decide you like me and feel you can trust me, then you are more likely to buy from me or refer someone to me. It’s very simple.
Have you ever been talking to someone and they just seem to start drifting off and they don’t seem to be paying attention or they are looking across the room? Don’t be that person. If you are serious about networking, then get serious about paying attention and listening to people. You just might be surprised by what you hear. You also may discover a special connection with that person, and, you never know, they may turn out to be a great source of business or referrals.
This point may seem obvious to some, but I’ve found that many people struggle to carry conversations with strangers. Here is a simple tip, when attending a networking event, always be prepared to talk about W.H.E.N.: your work, hobbies, education and network. Your work is where you work now and where you worked in the past. Hobbies are those things that you are most passionate about outside of work. Education is not only where you got your degree, but the conferences and workshops you have attended as well. Your network is the people you know and who you may be able to connect someone with.
At the end of the day, you are not trying to sell to someone at a networking event, your goal is to connect with them. To do that, you need to draw them into conversation, and, hopefully, find something that you have in common with them so they remember you. If you are trying to boil yourself down into an easily digested sentence or two that answers most of their questions, then you are cutting off the conversation. I say ditch the pitch!
Have Bryon Speak to Your Group About Networking!
Bryon has presented at the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, the Bonita Springs Area Chamber Commerce, the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals and the Entrepreneur Society of America - Naples, FL Chapter about networking. Please fill out the information below if you would like Bryon to speak to your group about networking.
Bryon McCartney is a managing partner and creative director at Be Brilliant™ Marketing! a branding, design, marketing, social media and web design agency based in Fort Myers, Florida. His work and experience has taken him around the globe, working with clients ranging from local entrepreneurs to global, Fortune 100 companies. Follow him on Twitter @BrilliantBryon or connect with him on LinkedIn.
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