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If you’ve read any books or articles about networking, then you’ve seen the suggestion to come up with what’s called an “elevator speech” pitch. The idea is that you should be able to completely describe what your company sells and why customers buy from you in less than a minute — during an elevator ride.
For a long time I tried to do this. I worked on creating an elevator pitch for networking events, but I found that the elevator pitch monologue just didn’t feel right. After all, it was supposed to be a conversation.

Then, I found the article Kill the Elevator Speech about abandoning the idea of having an elevator pitch. What it said made sense — convey the same information that’s in an elevator speech, but do it step-by-step in a conversation!

I’m not saying that an elevator speech isn’t helpful.

Just writing an elevator pitch is helpful to clarify what your company offers. But, it turns out that an elevator speech is useful only for events where delivering a short pitch is the format for the meeting. For example, the pitch fest meetings where entrepreneurs pitch potential investors on investing in their company in less than a minute is an interesting and entertaining format, but it seldom results in a worthwhile new connection.

Elevator speeches are also valuable at “speed networking” events where the objective is to tell your pitch quickly, or listen to the other person’s pitch, so you can make the most of the few minutes you have — before moving on to the next person’s pitch. However, in the casual, conversational setting of a networking mixer, it’s better to use a slightly different technique.

Here is a simple, one sentence format for introducing your story in a way that’s easy for the other person to remember:
[Company] provides [product or service solution] that helps [type of customer] [benefit].

Here are some examples to show how this template can be used:

  • Apple Computer provides computer-based products that helps people use digital content.
  • Honda provides cars and trucks to both consumers and businesses that are used to go places.
  • The Los Angeles Times provides news and information to people in Southern California that helps them stay in touch with their community.
  • SureToMeet provides meeting registration services that helps event organizers attract more people to events and meetings.

Most of these companies provide more than one product or service. But, people at busy networking events can only remember one thing that your company provides.

Start conversations with your one sentence introduction, and be ready to answer questions about your company as they come up in the conversation.

So, set the elevator speech aside for when an event calls for you to deliver a short pitch. Then, come up with a short way to quickly describe the one thing you want people at networking events to remember that you can provide.

Business networking is a big part of how business deals get done these days — but it has become harder and harder to make business networking beneficial.

For some people, face-to-face networking at meetings for professional groups and association chapters works well to meet new people.

For others, online networking using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail discussion lists works well to increase the number of connections, friends, and followers.

I have used both methods for a long time, and they work well for meeting new people. But both fall short when it comes to growing a relationship with someone you’ve met. That takes a different type of networking. It takes engaging in activities together over time.

Tony Karrer has cone up with a technique called “Visible Networking” that’s likely to overcome some of these problems. With Visible Networking a group of people have their networking conversations online in public:

What do I mean by visible networking, well it’s simply the idea that instead of having a 30 minute phone conversation, why not have that conversation out in public view. Twitter is pretty much that already. But I’m thinking about deeper conversations than I have on twitter. So, clearly it would make sense to do this in my blogs. And I’m thinking about having these conversations both with people I already know and people that I’ve just met or are just getting to know.

I told Tony:

Your idea of “Visible Networking” can help people take the “glad to meet you” networking to the next level — “glad to know you” relationships. Then, face-to-face meetings and activities become much more valuable.
I see Visible Networking as a series of conversations around blog posts, and encouraging a group of people to actively participate. It’s like a dinner discussion where a topic is discussed, then the group moves to the next topic.

Yes, blogs has been touted as a place to have conversations, but Tony is doing Visible Networking by starting the conversation in a blog post, then continuing the conversation in the comments. And, since he’s using a public blog anyone can join the conversation.

This technique can work well for any group, organization, or association chapter where many members don’t know each other. Visible Networking can help give visibility to each member, and encourage other members to participate in the conversations.

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