I used to attend quite a few networking events as a friend of mine before he relocated. He was a great networker, always bringing new people to events. He liked to play a game with them, the poor unsuspecting people.
Many that he brought were new to networking or did not feel comfortable, so he was their wing man. He also told them that there was someone there that could help. He just did not tell them about the way I would help.
Before he had us do our introductions, he would comfort each person saying, “Just go with it, I promise it will help.” Then I would ask them what they do and the fun began.
It might go something like this:
Me: “What do you do?”
PUP (Poor Unsuspecting Person): “I work for XYZ Company…”
Me: “That is who you work for, but what do you do?”
Pup: “I’m a manager at XYZ Company…”
Me: “’Manager’ is pretty vague, it still doesn’t tell me what you do.”
Pup: “Well, I oversee the ABC Department” looking at my friend for help
Me: “So you just hang out and watch people in the ABC Department work?”
Pup: “No. I mean, I do watch over them, but I do more than that.”
Me: “Like what?”
Pup: “Well, I have to set the goals and standards for them.” shifting in place uncomfortably
Me: “So you just set goals and standards for people that you ‘manage’?”
Pup: “yeah” small sigh of relief that it is over – not quite….
Me: “No. That can’t be all that you do. What is the purpose of you setting the goals and standards?”
Pup: “So our customers get their orders taken care of quickly and the right way and we can take more calls.” a little flustered at this point
Me: “So the managing, goals and standards all goes into customer service, it’s about your customers?”
Pup: “Yeah” a little worn out from the drill sergeant approach
Me: “So what you do is make sure if I order something from your company that I get the best service on the phone followed by receiving my order quickly and right the first time?”
Pup: “Yes! That is what I do.” light bulb!
Me: “Then that is how you introduce yourself.”
This whole conversation can take place in about a minute or so. It is a rapid-fire approach that limits the poor person’s ability to think and formulate an answer. I don’t want them to think about it, I want them to answer. Gut feeling, instinct. They know what they do, they are just afraid to say it the wrong way.
We get caught up in thinking too much. I am an over-analyzer, so I know all about this.
Networking is an interesting game and experience. Most people are not paying attention because they expect to hear the same things from every person, just like getting the same networking chicken at every event.
“I work at…”
“I am a fill in title here”
Neither of these things tells value.
Of course, my golden rule comes into play here. If you are a Pediatric Oncologist – that pretty much sums it up. You get a free pass on this one in using titles.
For the rest of us, our title and even company do not convey value. They convey – wait for it – our title and the place we work.
Our value is the positive benefit received by what we do and how we do it.
To craft a succinct elevator pitch you have to peel back the onion, or think of it as a series of ripping off band-aids. Enlist a friend and do a rapid-fire exercise.
Take turns practicing your elevator pitch – but – for each blanket statement or open ended word immediately interrupt that person and ask a question. Ask questions like:
Who do you work with?
How do you do that?
Why do you do that?
What does that mean?
Ask immediately and make the other person answer without pause. Keep asking questions, it is the theory of five whys. The more you ask the more layers you peel back and the real, impactful value is soon discovered. Using the rapid fire approach also helps cut out a lot of the unnecessary words and fillers.
It can get frustrating but as this is a friend, keep reassuring each other that you are doing great. This is an exercise and it is meant to help. There are also no wrong answers, just more avenues to discover.
Take your friend along to the next network event and be each other’s wing-person. When they are introducing themselves with their new pitch, watch the reaction of their conversation partner. Critique the interaction including their delivery, body language, if they capitalized on opportunities to engage further and any other items you notice.
In a very short period of time you will have achieved:
- An elevator pitch that tells people your value (what they care about the most)
- A succinct delivery
- The ability to engage your conversation partner
- Quality interactions
One last tidbit – mix it up. Do not rely on the exact same opening for each networking opportunity. Do not memorize your speech, know the highlights and let it flow. It will keep it fresh and you can easily modify it for your audience leading to energetic interactions with each new person.
Although networking can be critical to building a career, reputation and business – it should also be fun! So grab a bottle of wine or a six pack, a good friend and have some fun playing ‘rapid-fire rip apart the elevator pitch’!
As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.
Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.