Creating YOUR Pitch
We recently attended a conference in D.C., we were lucky enough to be asked to speak at, and we caught a session by the ever-entertaining Jenn Lederer. She talked about crafting the perfect pitch for your business or yourself, focusing on drilling down to the interesting shit that the other person will care about. So instead of starting out a convo with “what do you do,” perhaps we can incorporate some of these hot tips below to be a little more original.
Do Your Homework
Yes, you heard us right. Effective networking requires you to do some work before you even step foot into the venue. If you’re really serious about making a good impression, research the different companies and executives attending the event. Do a bit of a background check via LinkedIn. Make a list of who you want to talk to, memorize their faces (keep in mind everyone’s headshots on LinkedIn are literally ten years old), and know what you want to get out of the convo with them.
Crafting the Pitch
To begin crafting your pitch, pull similarities from the companies and professionals attending the event. Ask yourself what they have in common and how your skills and experiences relate to the group. It’s like those matching memory games we used to do as kids. For example, if you notice many of the companies have strong commitments to serve small businesses in the surrounding community, be prepared to talk about your company’s own small business story. Discussing common interests helps you to appear more relatable and easier to talk to, but you don’t want to cater your pitch to just blend in. You definitely want to throw in unique characteristics about you and your career to spice things up and make you sparkle.
Slide-In With Style
If you struggle to get the convo started, here are a few ideas for you.
Once you’ve entered the event/gathering, get yourself a glass of whatever it is you drink these days and scan the room for your perfect target (007 vibes here). Sliding in with style means serving up personality.
Start with a compliment. Don’t make it weird though. We’re talking about complimenting dresses, shirts, or shoes. Be genuine about it– people can sniff out fakeness. Finding common ground to discuss is always a safe fallback. If you’re floundering, discuss the happenings around you such as the temperature in the room, how the food tastes, or how you’re wearing the same color.
Sometimes sliding in with a self-deprecating joke relevant to the current situation may be easier. If they don’t laugh, that person is probably a dick and not worth talking to– let’s be real. Poking fun at yourself can help portray your personality and make those around you feel more comfortable with you. It shows that people will be people, no matter what their occupation or job title is.
No matter which icebreaker you choose, make sure to be authentic with your approach. People can smell bullshit from a mile away, especially in PR. Once you break the ice, congratulations, you’re in. Time to full-send your elevator pitch.
Shut Up and Listen
We all need to learn how to shut the hell up sometimes, especially at networking events. Something to keep in mind leading up to your pitch is that it’s less about you and more about them. Obviously, you will start your pitch with your name and where you work – or like to work. The rest of the pitch should focus less on you and what you’ve accomplished, and more on what you value and the passions you have that are relevant and can foster a conversation with the person you’re networking with.
Just think about it, what kind of conversation can come from you dumping your entire professional journey and accomplishments onto someone? We’ll answer that question for you: a boring and uneventful one. Instead, say a bit about yourself and what interests you as a professional or things you are looking forward to in the future.
Your research also ties into this one. Your research also ties into this one. Back to the small business example; after introductions, you can easily focus your pitch on how you value the work the person’s company is doing for the community, and how you have also worked with small businesses and that it is a passion of yours. This opens the floor to chat about something that is mutually important to both of you while showcasing accomplishments in a non-arrogant way.
If you feel the conversation is one-sided, make sure to continuously ask the person you are talking with about themselves. Feel free to ask questions about things other than their career. We are people outside of work (shocker!). Unsure what to talk about? We may be biased, but asking about their pets is a great way to bring a personable touch to any discussion. Remember be NORMAL– it’s not an interview.
Keep the Conversation Short
Try your best to keep each conversation a few minutes long. The whole purpose of a networking event is to mingle with many different people. Hogging someone longer than you should make it harder to pull away and move on to the next person. Even if the conversation is effortless and going well, work that to your advantage. Hit them with this line: “It’s been so great talking to you, I would love to continue this conversation sometime over coffee.” Keeping conversations short allows you to deliver your pitch but remain a bit mysterious at the same time. Always leave them wanting more. Don’t forget your business cards or to connect with them on LinkedIn after the event so you’re fresh on their mind.
The best thing about large networking events is how you can fuck up with one person but then turn around and try all over again with someone new. Oh, and the free wine, duh. Don’t get in your head too much. Everyone there is also trying to make connections– it’s literally why people go to these things. Remember: be real, have fun, and bring the sparkle.