In networking circles, there has been a big emphasis on “elevator speeches”, wherein a person summarizes their business in a 30-60 second pitch. These monologues have been grossly overemphasized, and tend to promote the monologue over dialogue. In the networking groups that I moderate, I try to establish more of a dialogue among group members, rather than merely having everyone go around the room and introduce themselves via the elevator speech. There are several reasons I do this:
- people are unlikely to remember what everyone says and does
- merely going around the room tends to be boring
- introverts and weak public speakers are at a distinct disadvantage
- many people are not very good at succinctly describing what they do
- a dialogue allows for elaboration and clarification
By having more of a dialogue, people are able to interact with one another and probe into areas that might have been previously unclear. I ask members questions, encourage them to differentiate themselves from others who do similar things, and indicate what makes them unique. For example, there are many financial advisors, but several key factors that might differentiate one from another. Are they fee based, do they sell products, what are their minimums, and how do they work with their clients? By having a dialogue, people are better able to provide a clear and useful picture of exactly what kind of business they are seeking (inbound referrals) and what kinds of resources their clients are looking for (outbound referrals).
The traditional elevator speech has minimal value when compared to dialogues, give and take, clarifying questions and WINK (who I need to know) spotlights, where a person has more time to convey the true nature of their business and the types of professionals they are trying to meet. Referrals and introductions are at the heart of business networking. In order to increase the flow of commerce, networking groups need to minimize elevator speeches and have other activities that allow a freer expression of information.