There you are in that networking event and you ask a simple question
The question could be anything, but in many networking events I have attended it is often “What do you do?” I don’t like this as an opener but I always answer it in a sentence. Then comes the almost obligatory riposte of asking the same thing.
The response will be telling. So many people take this as a cue to launch into a sales presentation. I did not ask for it, but it somehow became hard-wired into their DNA. I have tolerated responses of up to 10 mins of uninterrupted irrelevance before excusing myself from the conversation.
If you take longer than 30 seconds to answer any opening question in a networking environment, you start to become toxic
There are not many people I know who like to be sold to before they have some level of rapport established. The worst offenders are those walking around handing out business cards without even asking the names of those they are handing them to. That’s a straight red card from me in a networking event.
The art of conversation is getting lost in some networking environments
Things I usually do my best to establish before I’m interested in any business discussion are: Do I like you? Do I trust you? and, Is this someone I’d like to spend more time getting to know? These are the essentials, with Do you have a good sense of humour? being a heavily-weighted optional extra. Yet so many times people launch into presentations about their business which only serve to waste time.
What is the difference between a pitch and a presentation?
In my mind, anything over 30 seconds (when talking specifically about what you do versus who you are) in an initial conversation is where a pitch becomes a presentation. When I like someone and have qualified interest in what they do in their business, they are invited/encouraged to present more of what they do. Misread these signs and it becomes a pointless endeavour for all.
Practising this is essential if ever you have to pitch for investment
I have sat on enough investment panels to know that any question asked by investors that isn’t answered clearly and succinctly will start working against you. Investors can smell BS at 100 paces! If you can’t, or don’t want to answer the tough questions that they ask you, it is better to be honest and succinct than try and distract away from the topic that was addressed by them.
If you are not clear and succinct in all of your social interactions until interest is established, it’s likely that you are not getting the result you want, and don’t even know why
When your pitch is succinct you will be invited to present eventually. If it isn’t you will end up wasting a lot of time and energy.
If you want to find out why networking isn’t working so well for you, or your approaches for funding are not getting any replies, come along to one of my events and you will find out why. You’ll also discover a better way, which may improve your chances of getting funded or building up meaningful business relationships.
You can find my introductory events here. You are welcome to join me.
About the author:
Adam worked for 13 years of his professional life in acute medical settings. Here he developed training and leadership skills in working in emergency situations, staying calm in a crisis, and building rapport quickly with distressed patients and relatives. These days he applies these principles to his networking events, and pitch training programmes.