So, what do you do? It is a question you are likely asked multiple times a week at midweek business-related networking events and weekend dinner parties or nights out. It seems like an easy enough question to answer, doesn’t it? Not always. Don’t make company sorry they asked with a long response that serves to confuse more than anything. There is indeed an art to the perfect “elevator” or “cocktail” pitch in both business and social environments with an overall goal to capture someone’s attention in less than a minute and leave an impression that sticks and leaves them wanting to know more.
Above all, your spiel should be memorable, to the point and engaging from the start. Capture attention from the beginning with an impressive hook in the first sentence, which can include a bold claim or interesting facts and figures. Start with the essentials, the most important and most encompassing description of what you do for a living (but avoid the vague, macro-level description of “I’m in finance,” or “I’m in media”), then expand. This upside-down triangle approach ensures that if your conversation gets cut short for one reason or another, he or she will be informed of the basics. Furthermore, clearly communicate the company name from the beginning, so the other will know exactly where to find you if for some reason business cards are not exchanged.
Identify and Stick to Key Points
Identify three to five key points to communicate during your pitch and keep your focus centered on them to prevent you wandering off on a tangent. Remember, much like an elevator ride, your pitch must be short and concise. Think in terms of an essay, with your key points and pieces of information centre and a toolbox of supporting facts, figures and pieces of information to them up.
Be Conversational, Not Calculated
You have said your pitch a million times and could probably recite it in your sleep. But the last thing a pitch or answer to the “what do you do’ question should sound like is a an overly calculated sales pitch or like a beginner actor trying to read a script. If your whole demeanor changes when you’re asked about your profession, it can throw the whole vibe off an otherwise engaging and free-flowing conversation. Don’t try to impress with technical jargon and terminology; it will only overwhelm the other person and make them question whether you know what you are talking about of if you’re hiding behind your dictionary-esque dialogue to sound more intelligent. Anything can be explained in simple, human terms and in the language of your audience.
When you are done with your spiel, return the question and inquire as to what the other person does. When networking, remember that it is not just about you and it can be just as beneficial and important to listen as it is to talk. You may have just made a valuable connection, one that could result in a potential new client or prospective new employee, business collaborator or investor. When listening, strategic networkers are connecting the dots in his or her head as to what you or your business can do for them and vice versa.
Don’t Forget the “Pitch” or Call to Action or Request
What do you want from the other person, if anything at all? Follow your conversation through with a call to action. If you own a brand new restaurant, you should encourage the other to “come check it out” and offer to make him or her a reservation on a busy night. If you are an artist, encourage the other to check out your works at an exhibit where your art is currently showing and to explore mutually beneficial business relationships, suggest a lunch, presentation or after work cocktails to “talk shop.” Finally, make a point of always having business cards accessible, no matter the occasion – a card is the no-brain (and likely expected) compliment to the perfect pitch.
Leave a Lasting Impression
Odds are, you know what you are talking about and the other person is talking to you because he or she is actually interested in what you have to say. Maintain your confident and captivating energy throughout and be passionate about what you are talking about. Make your handshake count, maintain appropriate eye contact, try to infuse your interaction with humour and say goodbye to them by name.
No matter how many times you have said it, and how clear you are as to what you actually do, you’re bound to be better at your pitch certain times than others. Like many things, it can be seen as an art – practice makes perfect.