Professional networking can be a great way to meet new people, learn, identify new opportunities, and—plain and simple—get your name out there. However, it can also be intimidating, especially if you aren’t prepared for the situation.
Regularly I am asked for advice that can make these situations less awkward and help someone feel more comfortable engaging in this type of opportunity. I have one go to answer always at the ready: Have your pitch ready.
One of the best ways to prepare for a networking opportunity, which can happen in person or virtually, is to be prepared with a pitch. Sometimes called an elevator speech, your pitch is something that can be easily developed and practiced beforehand so that you are more comfortable delivering it when the moment presents itself.
Your pitch should be a quick summary, 30 to 40 seconds, in which you deliver a persuasive value proposition in a clear, concise and confident manner, designed to help you make a great first impression. In your pitch, you will want to share information that gives someone a unique perspective on who you are. Pitches are developed differently depending on how they are being utilized. A pitch used in relation to an employment opportunity will be different than one used during an education event that includes a professional networking opportunity. Pitches are also a great introduction to an online profile, but again are developed a bit differently than the others mentioned. Generally speaking though, there are a few questions that you will want to consider answering as a part of your pitch. Let’s discuss each of these.
First, who are you? This allows you to begin with an introduction, specifically your name and a greeting.
Next, what do you have to offer? Depending on your personal background as well as the type of situation, you will want to consider addressing your education and/or experience. For education, you will want to include where you graduated from and what degree(s) you obtained. Regarding your experience, include anything pertinent to the situation for which you are utilizing your pitch. This is also a great time to share your personal strengths and skills, including both soft and hard skills.
Third, what is your goal? This should be tailored to the situation in which the pitch is being used. If you are seeking an employment opportunity, your goals would align to the position description and responsibilities. If you are attending a professional networking event, your goals should align to why you are attending and what you are hoping to learn from participating.
After these general insights have been shared, it is a good time to conclude your pitch and in doing so you want to provide a call to action. For example, share your business card and ask that they share theirs and indicate that you are looking forward to connecting with them post event. Finally, as part of your conclusion, reciprocate by providing them the opportunity to share their pitch with you.
There are also a few pitch pitfalls to avoid. The first is humor, which can be misconstrued. Do not include humor or sarcasm in your pitch. Keep your pitch factual and to the point.
Next, don’t tell too much of your story. If you make that good first impression, there will be time to share more later.
Third, do not use broad or vague statements. Again, you want your pitch to be concise and specific. Do not use slang or jargon in your pitch as this can be misconstrued and can cause confusion.
Finally, don’t undersell yourself. This is your moment to leave a lasting impression. Who you are and what you do is important and should be reflected as part of your pitch.
I hope that you will take the time to develop and refine your pitch with this advice in mind. By doing so, I am confident that your next professional networking opportunity will be a more enjoyable and impactful experience.
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