Going Down: The Elevator Pitch

Of all the networking advice that bugs me, nothing is worse than the insistence that every networker hit the street prepped with a 30-second, well-rehearsed "elevator speech" about your skills and professional value.

The idea is that for every new interaction, your elevator speech rolls off your tongue within the first two minutes, and now your new contact is well equipped to hire you, recommend you, or otherwise help you along your way.

Reality Check

Maybe the elevator pitch makes you uncomfortable. Maybe it feels awkward and phony and presumptuous to spit your business credentials in someone's face within a few moments of meeting them. If the elevator speech thing doesn't feel like you, there's a good reason why: Your mother raised you with better manners than that.

This elevator-speech business is atrocious. For at least 100,000 years, human beings have been carving out a system of social interaction that says, "Tell me something, ask me something, let's get to know one another, and see what develops." There's a reason why audio business cards delivered 10 inches from your face have never taken off as a marketing tool before. They're rude!

Stick to Conversation Skills

Think about the conversation you would have if you weren't networking, if you merely sat on a commuter train next to someone and she said, "I love your watch." You'd say, "Thanks, my sister gave it to me after a trip to Milan." Your seatmate might say, "I've never been to Milan but I'd love to go, I've heard the architecture there is amazing," and off the two of you would go. You'd give and take and inquire politely, and learn interesting things about one another.

And here's what else: You might reach the station without having shared your business backgrounds, because that information is often not very interesting.

Focus on What's Interesting

Unless you're Lance Armstrong, your job description is very likely the dullest part of your story. There's a lot more to know about you, including what kinds of music you like, where you grew up, or how you hiked the Appalachian Trail. You are more fascinating than your job, and there's nothing about the business-networking-event paradigm that changes that.

Inflicting your well-rehearsed elevator speech on a new acquaintance is exactly the same as saying, "I'm not sure how long I'll be talking to you. And it's vitally important that, above all, you leave this event knowing what I do for a living and how you can help me. So I'm putting it out there now, before we discuss one other thing." What kind of statement is that? It says, "All you are to me is a source for contacts." Yuck.

So if you've felt squeamish about the elevator-pitch dogma in the past, relax. It's not you, it's the elevator-speech protocol that's broken.

The Goal Is Trust

People, left to their own devices, will make conversation that works for them, and if the conversation results in enough mutual good feeling to warrant more conversation, there's plenty of time to get your business message across.

No one makes recommendations based on business-card data; they make recommendations based on trust. And how do you establish trust? It doesn't come from a well-rehearsed, 30-second pitch.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: