By Shannon Houde
You’re at a leading industry conference getting a free-trade banana from the display of otherwise fattening snacks, and looking around to catch eyes with someone and “network”. Ahhhh! All of a sudden you see your dream boss, your top influencer. You brave it, walk over, introduce yourself and they are engaged. They ask you simply,
“So, what do you DO?”
Your heart rate goes up, you start to fidgit, and then…freeze. It seems like such a simple question (like the dreaded interview question, “walk me through your resume”. I mean who, more than you, knows as much as you do about yourself?
But really, are you ready for this? You don’t have a choice but to get ready. The new secret jobs market insists that you take the time to craft your memorable, original intro now – to save yourself later.
Not looking for a new job? That’s ok as this quick (think 30-seconds) pitch could help you win contracts, funding, or support for your impact-driven mission. It’s not used just to help you schmooze for a job, and, like LinkedIn, it isn’t only for job seekers, but rather, to help you build your personal brand and “make new friends” in your industry.
The trap many fall into is making their answer too short with just a title and company name when asked “what do you do?” That is boring! You have to bring it to life, tell a story, and take the whole 30 seconds. Don’t sell yourself short by keeping it too short.
Creating an elevator pitch is a 6-step process:
- Identify your goal What is your objective? Are you telling potential contacts what you do? Telling potential employers what you want to do next? Are you talking to grandma or a hologram?
- Explain what you do Be clear about the problem you are solving and use simple language, not in-depth technical details, so that anyone would understand it.
- Communicate your Unique Selling Point Make your story come to life so that your listener wants to hear more. Make your enthusiasm contagious. Your brand is all about the story you can tell to illustrate who you are and what impact you have. Paint a picture. All effective sustainability programs communicate their "story" through real people and real projects.
- Engage with a question To make it a two-way conversation that makes for good networking, end with a question, such as, "Tell me about yourself."
- Put it all together Merge the 4 sentences you’ve written. Don't worry about making it sound good, you can do that later. Be silly, serious, funny, reserved -- it doesn't matter. Let yourself shine through authentically.
- Practice Take some time to reflect on your writing and do a verbal recording. Circle the words and sentences that work. Look for the ones that hook you with a clear and confident story. Avoid connector words when possible. And don't forget to smile!
We are here to help you break this process down, be your sounding board during practice, and to give you networking advice. Also, a favorite book of mine to help you do this is Daniel Priestley’s “Key Person of Influence”. A quick airport read that is worth its (small) weight in gold.
Shannon Houde is an ICF certified executive and career coach who founded, Walk of Life Consulting, the first international professional development advisory business focused solely on the social impact, environmental and sustainable business fields.
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