Let’s talk about what is possibly the most important preparation you can make for attending a networking event. If you get this right, people will be lining up to buy from you. You’ll be so popular, you’ll be beating them off with a stick. What’s that crowning jewel of your networking event prep?

Developing your “elevator pitch”.

And in case you didn’t pick up on it, yes, that was my tongue firmly planted in cheek. Here’s the thing. The elevator pitch, the value proposition, the 20, 30, or 60 second commercial. What do they all have in common?

They aren’t good networking.

Think about it. If our goal in networking is to establish powerful connections and relationships with other people, then the traditional “pitch” just doesn’t work. I can think of at least five things wrong with it.

  1. It’s focused on sales. Even the name tells you that. You’re giving them your “pitch”, you are describing your “value”. Heck, you’re making them listen to your “commercial”! Tell me the last time you established a strong personal mutually beneficial relationship with the person who interrupted your favorite television program to sell you a paper towel. This is the same thing except it’s harder for your victim to change the channel.
  2. It’s all about you. We’ll talk about this more later, but if you’re talking about your stuff, you aren’t finding out more about them. That means you aren’t connecting.
  3. It’s just not very conversational. Imagine having a nice chat with the person sitting next to you at the alumni association lunch. As a part of the natural ebb and flow of the conversation, you ask them what they do. Suddenly they stop being a human being and deliver thirty seconds of their value proposition. Talk about a conversation killer!
  4. It’s fake and more than a little manipulative. One of the things you are supposed to do when someone asks what you do is to come up with a short snappy response that makes them curious and want to ask more. A dentist might say something like “I make children smile!” Whenever I hear something like this all I can think is “What is this guy selling?” Listen, you know when someone is trying to manipulate you into asking more about their business. They can tell if you are doing that, too.
  5. At the bottom of it all, they just don’t care. Or at least they won’t care about your business until they do care about you as a person. Really, the only good thing about these techniques is they’re short. You at least won’t be in danger of boring the other person to tears.

Back before I had developed techniques to deal with such situations, I ran into a guy at a holiday party put on by one of my clients.  To tell you the truth, I didn’t even ask him what he did.  The person who introduced us did it for me.  He then proceeded, for the next forty-five minutes to tell me in excruciating detail about his product, the reasons he built his product, who he would help with his product, why his product was the best on the market, how it differed from other products like it, how long he had taken to develop his product, and, apparently, how his product was designed to allow him to continue talking without drawing a breath or leaving a conversational gap anywhere so that someone trapped into talking with him would find no escape, no rescue, no hope.

OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating just a little…

…but not by much.

So, all I can say is, don’t be that guy.

Follow these guidelines as you develop what you are going to say when someone asks “What do you do?”

  • Make it brief. In my informal polling of my audiences, for most people, you’ve got between 7 and 10 seconds before they’re bored listening to you talk about your business.
  • Make it straightforward. Those “cute” responses just make you look evasive, deceptive, and manipulative.
  • Make it include who you help and how you do it. All you want is for them to remember a general sense of what you do.

So, following these guidelines, using myself for an example, I might say “I teach entrepreneurs to feel comfortable at networking events like this one and have their networking pay off in the long run.” If they just remember that I teach people about networking or even that I do some sort of business training, I consider it a win.

Beyond this very brief explanation, just stop talking.  If they want to know more, they can ask.  Until and unless they do you can refocus the discussion on them, their business and their interests. Then you can connect with them as a human being and not as a company.

Because that’s really the only way you can make great networking connections.

Greg Peters, president and founder of The Reluctant Networker, LLC, is a business networking specialist. He has worked with businesses and associations, entrepreneurs and job-seekers to create a world of better connections and greater opportunity. Find out more at www.TheReluctantNetworker.com or gpeters@thereluctantnetworker.com.

© Copyright 2013, The Reluctant Networker, LLC

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