In preparation for events that we'll be doing this year, our VP of Business Development – a master networker – Harrison Painter, and I were discussing everything that we hated about networking events. Top on the list was hard selling and elevator pitches. At times, I attend these events, and it feels as though someone rang a buzzer and everyone comes out of their corner swinging. They're bobbing and weaving through the attendees pitching one another looking for a match.
And it rarely comes.
Harrison has put on some of the most memorable networking events in the country. Instead of an elevator pitch, attendees are encouraged to share what makes them awesome in 30 seconds. While that may sound a bit hokey, it puts attendees on the spot, and they have to dig deep at providing a personal anecdote on something that they're really proud of, or care about, or what they aspire to be. Instead of a pitch, it's an instant glimpse into the human side of the person standing or sitting there amongst strangers.
At the events I attended, I didn't walk away trying to remember whose business card was whose. I knew a characteristic about each person that was memorable. As an example, I met David Roux. David was a rock drummer who loved to play at his Church every Sunday. Aside from that awesome characteristic, David was an life coach for young people. It wasn't long after that I hired David to coach my own daughter.
The Problem with Pitches
There are few key problems with elevator pitches:
- Assumption – Why would you assume that the person across from you wishes to be pitched at all?
- Ignorance – How are you going to understand the problems the person across from you is facing without knowing anything about them?
- Target – Most of the time it's not the networking attendee you're going to do business with, it's a person in their network who your message is relayed to via word-of-mouth.
What You Should Share
If you knew that the person across from you had an incredible network of prospective customers that you could assist, how would you speak to them differently? You wouldn't pitch them at all, would you? I wouldn't. Here's what I would focus on:
- Awesome – having a conversation with the person across from me and ensuring that I share something memorable with them that they won't soon forget. For me, it could be that I'm a US Navy Veteran or a single father of two. There are plenty of marketers in every city… but not too many that were Desert Shield and Desert Storm Veterans that served onboard a Tank Landing Ship and raised two incredible kids on his own!
- Trust – I want to learn who the person across from me is both networked with and a trusted advisor of. If the person I'm standing across from has an incredible network of clients or partners that they are advising that are the perfect client for me, I want to invest a lot more time engaging with them and learning how we can be of value to one another.
- Teach – Instead of pitching the person across from me, I want to teach them instead. I want to educate them on the type of value that I can bring their clients and the types of problems we help with. I want to share actual use cases that they will remember and repeat with the folks in their network that trust them.
- Ask – Remember being of value? I want to figure out what I can accomplish to be of value to this person. And I want to be clear that I'm asking them for assistance in gaining access to their network since they're a great fit for my company's products and services.
The best networkers that I work with know a secret that most do not. Their target isn't the people at the networking event… it's the people that the attendees have within their extended network. Perhaps you're attending an event with 50 other attendees. Your prospect isn't in that venue, it's the thousands of prospects within one word-of-mouth connection outside that venue!
Ditch the elevator pitch.