Thursday, August 22, 2013

Elevator Speech or Surprise Date?

It's been a long time since I've been to a networking event. We have had a lot of changes in our house over the last couple years - we had a baby and I added 2 more positions to my resume. Most of the time my glamorous work-at-home-mom life looks like this photo.
Photo Credit: Istock

I was invited to an event recently that was a great "After Hours" at a local business. I was really excited to attend because as I mentioned, it's been a while since I've been able to get out and meet other business people. I was looking forward to it even more when I walked in because it was a room of faces I had never met. 

Photo Credit:

You're thinking "Oh my goodness, how intimidating!" (read - that's scary I probably would have walked out) Not for me. I am always looking for someone new to connect with so I can add to the list of people I know. I seem to get a lot of random phone calls that start with "Hey Lindsey, I know you know somebody that does ______." And yes, I usually do know someone that does that. I'm like the legit version of Huggy Bear. 

I digress, I walked into this event ready to talk to people. All the people. I started with the person I knew of course then worked my way to the drink table (great place to strike up a conversation, just like a high school dance). I started talking to a new acquaintance and realized after 90 seconds of listening "Oh no, we are on a date." 

When you are at a networking event, "dates" are BAD. In the first 60 seconds I met this person I figured out what they did and tried asked a question about it.  Boom. Crystal clear. But then...I was now being told about every single other thing that business did, how they impacted the community, the list goes on. When they finally asked what I did - I gave them my elevator speech -I told them who I work for, the clients I assist and the kind of work I do. Then I was asked me to sit down with them so they could tell me more about what they do. 

See? We were on a date. I politely put my food down and mentioned I needed to speak with someone else and would come back to the table to continue our talk. Guess what happened? Someone else at the event sat next to him and they ended up talking to only each other almost the entire event.

I am by no means saying I'm an "expert networker" because I have TOTALLY been the one that surprised the other person with a date. I'd be talking to someone and before I knew it I was telling them my dog's bathroom habits (again, not a good subject when you first meet someone). 

In case you are wondering here are a few cues that the person you are talking to thinks they are on a surprise date:  they are looking around the room constantly, shaking their head a lot and saying "yep, mmhmm or I agree," looking at their phone like they have an important call/text/facebook update to respond to, etc. 

If that sounds like your situation and you realize you have surprised someone with a date here's how to get out of it - down your drink, check your phone, make a comment about how you didn't realize you've been monopolizing their time, ask for their business card and head back to the drink table.

Moral of the story is:

Have an elevator speech. What is it you ask? You're in an elevator, someone steps in and you have to tell them everything about your business before they reach their floor. Stick to the who, what, where and why. When they tell you their speech ask a question about how you can help them further their business or ask for a business card, it's a great way to plant the seed to exchange future referrals. (more about that later)

What's the best way to practice your elevator speech? GO TO LOCAL NETWORKING EVENTS! They are safe, I promise!  You can even go with a friend and ask them "Did I sound like I was on a surprised date or in the elevator?" 

As a side note - business "dates" are great things! But only if they are planned. You can get to know someone and their business plus learn how to help further each other's goals. The best way to set one up is contact the person after the networking event and tell them you'd love to learn more about their business over lunch. 

-- Filed by Lindsey under: Brutally Honest and Networking--

Have you ever realized you were on a date in the middle of a networking event? Do you have an elevator speech? What are your tips for networking events? Shoot me a comment and let's talk!