A sales or networking introduction is often called a pitch (or elevator pitch) in business.
Why the “elevator”?
This persuasive pitch is delivered quickly – 30-60 seconds – in about the time it takes to ride an elevator with someone. Sometimes that’s as long as you get with an influential person.
In my business communication courses, we concentrate on elevator pitches as social introductions at networking events rather than sales pitches, but the same guidelines apply.
A practiced pitch helps you make a positive first impression.
Kathy McAfee, How to craft your 30 second elevator pitch or networking introduction (YouTube, 4:06)
Carmine Gallo, Message Map: How to pitch anything in 15 seconds (YouTube, 4:34)
Josh Light’s winning elevator pitch (youtube_1:55)
Networking events can feel awkward, but everyone knows you’re there because you want something. So do they. So relax. Be yourself. If you don’t act smarmy, you won’t come across as smarmy.
My three suggestions for crafting your elevator pitch: share your skill set, share yourself, and offer to help.
1. Share your skill set
A pitch is a purposeful introduction. Give a sense of what you can do…what you have done, what you enjoy doing, what you want to do.
Keep it simple. Choose 1-3 of your strongest skills and have a short statement or two on the ready that help illustrate how you gained those skills or what achievements you’ve had as a result of them.
You don’t have to be a braggart. But have the confidence to know what you enjoy and some successes you’ve had as a result of utilizing the talents God gave you.
Example: “I teach business students how to get jobs and I write inspirational historical novels.”
2. Share yourself
Don’t be a walking script. Be yourself! Share a story, or at least an element of story.
Stories are memorable. The story doesn’t even have to be about you, it can be a life lesson – something a mentor shared, or something you observed that had an impact.
Examples: “I’ve traveled to China and Europe with students (Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Brussels, The Hague, Geneva, Frankfurt, Prague, Vienna and Budapest).” Or…”One of my greatest honors as a teacher has been teaching at the women’s prison.” Or…”As an author, it was exciting to meet John Grisham recently.”
Everything you share with someone else says something about you – not just your words but your smile, your posture, your non-verbals.
Be genuine. Let people see the real you.
3. Offer to help
If you really want to get someone’s attention, ask about them.
Ask about their skill set…then share yours. Ask about their dreams…then share yours. Ask what they are struggling with most…then offer to help. Or seek a connection that will benefit them in some way.
Example: “You work at ___? Do you know ___?” Or…”Oh, you’re an accounting professional? Do you hire interns? I always have great students looking for internships.”
Maybe you don’t have the skills to meet their needs but you know someone who does. Ask for their card, write a note on the back, then follow-up. Connect them to someone more skilled.
If you can’t help and don’t know anyone who can help, that’s okay. Just say, “I genuinely wish I knew how to help.” The empathy alone will be refreshing.
All offers of help should be genuine and followed through.
Last thing…practice, practice, practice until it rolls off your tongue naturally.
The 4 components of a compelling elevator pitch Michael Hyatt
Networking is the exchange of information or services among people or computers.
Networking is about connection and relationships.
For the sake of your career, you should want to cultivate healthy relationships with others because the old adage is true: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
70-80% of jobs come through networking.
Virtually everyone you meet has some knowledge or personal connection that could do you good. The more you seek to interact with people, especially in business settings specific to your career goals (conferences, workshops, etc.), and the more adept you are at asking great questions and making a positive impression, the more benefit you’ll receive.
The goal is to become a known entity.
If I hire an unknown entity, my risk is high. If I hire someone I know or who has been recommended to me by others, I lower my risk and the chance of a good return is greater.
9 tips for navigating your first networking event (The Daily Muse)
Top 5 tips to successfully attend a networking event (Careerealism)
People will either work to open doors for you, or not. Give them a reason to want to.
Specific Networking Tips
- Go to business-related events…even if you’re an introvert. An introvert’s guide to networking (HBR)
- If it’s an option, get a guest list prior to the event and look folks up on LinkedIn. This will help you know their interests so you can ask great questions.
- Perfect your elevator pitch, then use it!
- Have business cards in your pocket. When exchanging them, write a note on the back to help you remember this person. You may meet several folks at the events and have trouble keeping them straight later.
- Dress to impress. Wear a signature piece (bold necklace, tie, pocket square, shoes, blouse, or jacket) to stand out and be memorable.
- Invite folks you meet to LinkedIn following the event. (Or, if connected before, send a note, “Looking forward to meeting you.”)
- If there is someone you’re especially excited to meet, but nervous about it, talk to at least three other folks before you approach them. This will help you get your jitters out.
- Approach folks standing by themselves or with one other person rather than larger groups. Maintain strong eye contact. No one wants to feel like you’re just using him or her until the person you really want to talk to is free.
- When you’re ready to move on, extend your right hand and say, “Bob, it was a pleasure to meet you.” That signals that you can each move on.
- Stay up on current events. You’ll always have something to talk about intelligently if you do. If your event is in a new city, it’s smart to read that day’s headline stories prior to attending the event, or…current events in the cities of folks you want to meet and impress, or…current news stories affecting that person’s business or industry (often found on the company’s website).
One of the best networking strategies a person can have is to join professional organizations in his or her field and be actively involved. Volunteering is another great way to network.
Networking is especially important in times of career transition. When you’re job-hunting, you want to stay top-of-mind.
If you maintain relationships with mentors, faculty, and folks in your industry, they have a greater sense of investment in your success and will work more actively to connect you with opportunities.
Forget networking. How to be a connector (Entrepreneur)
Kim Riley, president of Hylant (Cleveland), says the best advice she ever received from one of her mentors, Joe Scarlett of the Scarlett Leadership Institute, was to never eat alone. She sets breakfast and lunch appointments each work day to cultivate relationships.
Keith Ferrazi offers this same advice in his book, Never Eat Alone.
When Keith meets new people, he asks for their birthday and immediately enters it into his phone calendar. Each day he gets to the office early and calls everyone who has a birthday that day, to sing them happy birthday. It’s a great way to cultivate relationships and make folks feel special on their day.
It’s critical for the current job seeker to have a strong social media presence.
LinkedIn has become a primary way to recruit talent. Tips for a strong LinkedIn profile:
- Use a high-quality profile picture that represents you as a professional (business professional dress).
- Consider the Influencers you follow. You have an opportunity to learn from industry leaders. Do you capitalize on this?
- Add value. Share articles and posts that benefitted you, and stand to benefit others. Create original content that offers high value to those in your network.
10 tips for young professionals publishing on LinkedIn (Mike Mellazzo)
Employers will also search out potential candidates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to see if claims made during the interview process ring true.
If you have digital dirt, it will likely be discovered. An interviewer may seek this information before or after the interview. You may have had a great interview and the interviewer is now looking for confirmation that you will, in fact, make a great employee.
Do your social networking sites reinforce the strong work ethic you claimed or counter it?
Pictures of you at events with alcohol, drugs, or inappropriate behavior (even if it is folks in the background and not you, directly) along with postings with vulgar language (you or your friends’ notes to you) can turn a hot job possibility cold. Employers want employees who are reliable and will not cause inappropriate workplace drama.
Post pictures and content that help establish you as a professional.
All profile pictures should be clear and sharp. Think about the message they send and how they make you look. Facebook is a casual site, but steer clear of anything that has the potential to put you in a bad light. If you wouldn’t want your grandparents or priest to see it, don’t post it.
The tone and content of your posts are also important. Do you add value with your contributions? Or do you use social media as a way to vent or as a soapbox for strong personal views?
On LinkedIn, particularly, potential employers will assess whether your contributions are valuable to the industry in which you work.