Going networking and drumming up new business is not something I have done for awhile, but I do remember the networking events I attended very vividly. As a fresh-faced business newbie, I feel I had the ideal vantage point when it came to observing how people pitched their business. I spent a lot of time listening, learning, evaluating, and analysing the things people said.
These days, I tend to network less, but I network at high-value events like conferences or meetups, and I am still obsessed with how to establish relationships, win people over, and create trust.
Here are some things that my networking experiences have taught me about pitching so far:
Don’t forget why you are there
It’s easy to lose sight of why you turned up in the first place and get all muddled, especially if you’re nervous. Set yourself a clear purpose and a goal and keep it really specific. The more focused you are, the more you will get out of it.
(If your goal is to be exploratory, then fine: go with that. Just make sure you are actually exploring…).
Breathe deep & drink water
The simple things can catch you out in these high-pressure situations. Make sure you are breathing right and have a glass of water nearby at all times. Offer water to other people too.
Listen to others
You might be thinking about what you want to say, but try to relax enough so that you can listen to others. Ask questions first and then offer an answer that mirrors or responds to what they said.
Listening and responding makes networking less stressful, paints you as a great person, and will ultimately mean that you walk away with a lot more value.
Know who you’re talking to
Read the room. Modify your pitch based on who is there and don’t be afraid to get others involved in your pitch. Show that you’re listening and engaging with their problems.
For example, I used to come up with content ideas for business owners on the spot. It was a really easy and tangible way for them to figure out what it is I did exactly.
Be brave & be kind
Be brave enough to stand your ground and don’t get bullied. If someone does something that makes you feel a bit insecure, try not to dwell on it. You don’t know what’s going on with other people, so be kind (even if they are not).
I think you have to find that balance between being brave and direct, and letting things go with kindness. I’ve had some tricky pitches and situations, but you learn and you move on. Trust the process.
A pitch needs a follow-up, but don’t just email everyone. Engage over email or social media with a few key people who seemed engaged/interested in your pitch. Engage with others as well and let people know if you enjoyed something they said/did.
Don’t always feel the pressure to ‘share leads’ or anything: positive feedback is nice to give without an ulterior motive.
I remember some people purely because they broke the mold. You don’t have to be loud and quirky, but you do need to say something interesting or different. If your pitch sounds generic, change it.
I got told once to pitch like I was pitching to 8-year-olds. It’s sound advice. Breaking your pitch down into simple components is never a bad thing. Strip it right back to the raw essentials.