It is estimated that in California some 50% of SMEs engage in some form of formal structured networking, compared with around 5% in the UK. One networking colleague once described to me two different types of business owner, the ones who stand by the bus-stop waiting for the bus to come by. Inevitably these people find that two really do come at once and may find themselves flustered. Others are out there and use business networking as a strategic part of their marketing armoury.
People who shy away from networking events tend to worry about there being an oppressive atmosphere, about not fitting in, about being ignored and worse still fear of standing up in public and having to talk about themselves. It is this fear of public spaeking that most terrifes people. But if you are worried about deliveringan elevator pitch, sixty second or forty second slot, here are three pieces of advice I give to new networkers facing their first elevator pitch with some trepidation.
1. Be honest about nerves
If you stand up and are prepared to say you are little nervous you WILL get a sympathetic hearing. Frankly anyone who is switched off by someone expressing a little honesty is not the sort of person you want to be networking with anyway.
2. Let your body talk
Open body language in these circumstances is vital. Hunched shoulders, arms folded and eyes glued to the table will win you no favours. Whilst people may wish to be positive towards you such body language tends to shut people out. Stand up open your arms wide with palms facing outwards, look around the room and say, "Look guys I'm a little nervous about this!" The difference in the reaction you will get is immense
3. Preparation is key
Observe carefully other networking colleagues in action. Very often the most confident and verbose networkers rely on familiarity and their own sense of charisma to blag their way through a pitch. Because their colleague already Know Like and Trust them then they get away with it. In reality they are delivering a stale message and are unlikely to give a fresh message to their colleagues. Personality only gets you so far, a well prepared fresh pitch trumps easy familiarity every time.
Here are ten tips for pitch preparation form an article by Arnold Anderson of Demand media
Find the best way to describe your title in five words or less as the opening to your elevator pitch. You need to make it interesting to the listener. For example, rather than saying you are a copier sales associate, you could call yourself an office automation expert. It adds a little to your title and makes the person want to hear more.
Keep it Short
After the brief introduction of what your title is, your company description needs to be one sentence long that you can say in five seconds or less. Your time limit is 15 seconds on an elevator pitch, and you need to leave the prospect time to respond to what you said. So, keep your pitch short and make it right to the point.
Rely on the "wow" factor in an elevator pitch rather than straight-ahead professional language. Try to find a way to present your company or product that makes it sound like it either makes your clients money or increases company productivity. A statement like "we help companies get the most out of their technology investments" is more compelling that simply saying that you lease computers.
An elevator pitch is a very important marketing tool that requires planning. Spend time writing your pitch out, and keep working on it until you get a pitch that you like.
You will be giving your elevator pitch frequently during the course of a week or month, and you only get one chance to use it on each new listener. Practice your elevator pitch on friends and colleagues until your delivery is smooth.
Avoid Industry Lingo
Always assume that your listener is not in your industry and would have a limited understanding of your industry lingo. Use plain English in your elevator pitch, and write it as though you are speaking to a person with no technical knowledge.
Frame Your Company
Framing your company means giving a quick description of where you stand in your industry. For example, you may be the third largest supplier or the second leading provider of your product or service. Include just a couple of words that help to give the listener an idea of the magnitude of your company.
When you give your elevator pitch, look your listener in the eye the entire time. It makes the listener feel like you have confidence in what you are saying.
Do not make it sound like you have given the elevator pitch many times in the past. If you sound disinterested, then the listener will become disinterested. Each elevator pitch is a chance to gain a new client, so treat each one as an important event.
Plan A Follow-Up
The worst thing you can do is have a great elevator pitch but have no plan on what to say if the person expresses interest. Once your pitch is done, if the person seems interested, begin asking him questions about his business and then tailor the rest of your presentation towards his specific needs. Develop a list of questions to ask immediately after your pitch that will help you to determine if it is an opportunity worth pursuing."