This spring, I was able to attend a Speed Networking night hosted by Canisius College and Amherst’s Emerging Business Leaders. Drinks in hand, we circulated around tables, a sparkling crew of Buffalo’s young professionals. The event featured a formal speed networking time, where we were given 90 seconds to “network” with each of the 40 or so people in attendance.
40 people. 90 seconds.
Have you ever tried to authentically present yourself and your experiences, to make a real connection with someone, and to listen well and ask questions – all in the time you spent microwaving last night’s leftovers?
90 seconds is NOT a long time.
But by the twentieth person, I felt like I had finally nailed it down. “Hi-I’m-Kate-I-study-and-work-at-Canisius-College-in-the-M.S.-Communication-and-Leadership-graduate-program-here’s-my-card-I’m-interested-in-facilitating-strategic-planning-with-501(c)3s…”
Painfully boring? Yes. Uncomfortable for all parties present? For sure. There’s gotta be a better way? I agree.
The Art of the Elevator Pitch
Do you fall into the same trap I did, rattling off the lines of my resume? It’s easy to let your elevator pitch turn into an oral report of your resume: Objectives! Education! Relevant Skills! Oh my!
You’re not a walking resume. You’re not a CV personified. You’re a person with a lifetime of knowledge, with a unique perspective on leadership and work. So tell that! After you introduce yourself, share your favorite story – just a quick one – that really represents you or the work you do. Share about that time you pitched a whole campaign to a client, never noticing your kid’s diaper was stuck to the back of your suit. Tell the story of the summer you tried to teach yourself Spanish by watching tele novellas, all because your boss dropped a hint she might send you overseas.
Tell a story that’s entertaining, but – being the networking ninja you are – still showcases your commitment, passion or experience. Then let them chime in with their own anecdote, and appreciate the amazing person standing across from you.
From Snooze to Schmooze
The best tip I can give you from 2 hours of professional schmoozing? PRACTICE. Tell your story again and again. Practice really listening to the other person and asking good questions. You’ll leave them feeling comfortable, entertained and interested.
Have you heard the phrase, “people may not remember what you did or said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel”? That’s my new networking mantra. What’s yours?