30 Crucial seconds

In the previous post, I wrote about a networking situation we’re all really familiar with – you meet someone you’ve always wanted to meet, and then you blew it because you weren’t prepared.
I spend my working life sitting down with people and helping them to communicate better, either by presenting, pitching or networking and it astonishes me how little time people give to thinking about their networking strategically. To say that most people are ‘vague’ about it would be being very, very polite.

If we’re honest, the deepest thinking many of us have done about networking is ‘Well, the drinks are free and I might meet someone useful/interesting/incredibly attractive there. (I think most people think more about the last option)
So – best ways to prepare? One thing you have to prepare is your elevator pitch. If you’re not familiar with the idea, it’s very simple – someone, someday soon is going to turn to you at an event and say
“Tell me about yourself!”
(I put the exclamation mark in because that’s how it sounds to most people!)
And you should be ready with a brief overview that responds to that request. The twist, though, is that it should be brief – you’re in an elevator and you’ve only got 10 floors, or about 30 seconds to respond! Generally, I see three kinds of elevator pitches and they’re all crazy:
1. People act as if they had no idea they were going to be asked – they stutter, fumble, act absurdly modest, go bright red and forget almost everything about themselves. “Oh, well, I kind of, well, you know I’m sort of in retail, well, not really retail it’s sort of online but with, you know, still retailish. Sort of. You know…”
2. Some people try a ‘be wacky and they’ll remember me’ elevator pitch (they almost certainly read this in a ‘personal brand’ business book):
“I’m the person who can take you from good to great in 3 simple steps…” (I’m not making that up, I actually overhead that at a start-up financing event)
3. They actually DO talk about themselves. And they talk. And talk. And talk. “Well, I started my business in 1997, and we work in the recruitment space, and since then we’ve grown 4-fold, and we’ve acquired…”
As you can tell, I’m not a fan of any of those responses, and I think that each is flawed for the same reason – none of them do what a good elevator pitch should do – provoke the questioner to ask for more information, and have a conversation.
Almost all ‘elevator pitches’ contain too much information, and it’s information that is usually irrelevant to the questioner anyway. At the end of a really good elevator pitch, someone should be saying “Ok, that’s interesting, tell me more…” or “That sounds good, how do you do that exactly?”
When you can create a good, brief, structured elevator pitch you’ll come across as more credible, more intelligent and a better conversationalist, and isn’t that a great way to be perceived at an event?
In the next post, I’ll go through a simple structure to help you write your own elevator pitch, but in the meantime, let me know any of your own that you’ve tried – what’s worked and what hasn’t and why?

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