Depending on the format of the networking meetings you attend, you could have anything from 30 seconds to a few minutes to put across to your assembled peers, what it is you do and what your business offers – this is called an “elevator pitch“; derived from the typical amount of time you would have in a lift (elevator) should you open up a conversation.
Now whilst it might not seem a long time, you should be able to put across what you do in a concise way that conveys enough information either for the audience to understand or create enough of an intrigue that they will come up to you afterwards to find out more.
You could even stray away from ‘traditional‘ elevator pitches and do something different that will have you stay in people’s memories. In my time, I have heard poems, had one lady sing her introduction, a pyrotechnician light a sparkler, a wine specialist have a rotating bottle of chocolate wine (yes ladies!) in front of him and even a fire and safety equipment supplier let off a fire extinguisher (no really!). All of these people I can remember what they do, most of their company names, their names and where I met them.
So, depending on what you do, maybe you could think of something special and different to get yourself remembered (I wouldn’t necessarily adopt the fire extinguisher option – the people sitting in close proximity to this particular gentleman were a little startled to say the least!).
Here is a list of considerations when preparing your pitch:
- Time – know the length of time that you are given at a meeting for the elevator pitch so that you make the best use of the time and that you don’t overrun.
- Name, Company, Location – this might sound obvious and everyone is likely to remember their name, but people do forget to say the name of the company they represent and where they are based. The latter is important as it can often be the start of something you have in common with another networker to start a conversation about a place where you both live.
- Target audience – what type of prospect are you looking for? The more ‘niche‘ you can be, the easier it will be for people to potentially refer you and understand the ideal customer you are looking for.
- Focus on benefits – rather than just say what you do, let people know the what the benefits of doing business with you are and why they should choose you over any competitor or alternative solution.
There are 8 benefits that people respond to:
- more wealth
- better health
- feeling secure
- being more popular
- being more physically attractive
- having more fun
- getting more free time
- achieving inner peace
- USP (Unique Selling Proposition) – building on the above point, you should be aware of what your USP is. This is the key benefit or unique aspect of your business that distinguishes you from your competitor. It might be that you are the leader in your field/market place, you offer a guarantee that no one else does, you can provide higher value than your competitors, …you get the picture. (You don’t have to have just one).
- Credibility – unless you come across as credible within the product/service you are offering, you will not gain the respect of the people you are trying to endear to you. The best way of doing this is to quote a genuine testimonial from a customer. In time hopefully you will have generated happy customers with the people who you are networking with, a testimonial from their mouth rather than yours will increase your credibility significantly.
- Variety – if are a regular attendee of a particular networking meeting, you may want to vary your pitch by giving people examples of what you do by way of a case study that brings out some of the above points or tell a story that exemplifies what you do. A format for a case study, given the time restriction, could be who the customer was (or industry sector they’re in), what the issue was you were resolving and what the out come was.
- Aide Mémoire – there is nothing wrong with writing down your speech or making some bullet point notes. Talking in front of other people is one of the biggest fears that most people have, so anything that helps you do this is worthwhile.
- Sell* – no one wants to be sold to at an initial meeting or regular events to be honest. The idea of networking is to build rapport and relationships with the other members/attendees so that they can trust doing business with you and you them.
(* Having said this, it may be worth considering a small ‘something’ relevant to your industry that you could sell for up to £10, probably £5. This is within most people’s reach and they could then refer you with confidence as they will have actually done business with you! I sell people a discounted copy of my book for a fiver).
- Drone on – don’t overshoot your pitch, make sure you’re within the time specified. Nor should you be boring talking about yourself too much or how wonderful your product/service is. Be proud, but be humble – don’t overdo it; otherwise you’ll get remembered but for the wrong reasons.
- Abuse your time – as much as you shouldn’t overshoot the time limit, I think you should make the best use of the time you are allocated – why wouldn’t you? As per the above advice, know how many seconds/minutes you are allowed and tailor your message to fit that amount of time. Making the effort to do this will be a positive for you and show your audience that you have taken time to ensure this.
- Change – whilst variety is good, don’t keep changing the message each time you introduce yourself. Your listeners want some sort of consistency and confidence in you and that you are the expert in what you do. If one week you are a social media expert, the next week an IT specialist and the week after that you are a Herbalife distributor, this will not help your credibility. Fine if you want to have a number of strings to you bow, but stay focused on the one that you think will give you the best return and matches the type of networking event you are attending.
- Use jargon or abbreviations – it is easy if you are used to TLAs and FLAs in your industry, however other people are not likely to know them. To avoid doubt, don’t use them or if you do, explain them. (TLA = Three Letter Acronym, FLA = Four Letter Acronym!).
So with all the above in mind, a possible formula could be:
My name is ________ of (company name), based in ________ (location). We work with ________ (target customers) who want ________ (key need), we are a ________ (type of organisation) that offers xxxx (main products or services). Unlike other ________ (type of organisation) we ________ (key differentiating factor). You just fill in the blanks. One of recent clients said ________ (highlight one or more of the points you have made previously in the pitch).
That’s it! You are now “armed and dangerous“.
Believe in yourself, believe in your offering and believe that word of mouth through networking will work for your business.