St. Louis has seen a surge in entrepreneurial activity. Each day brings with it a new organization to support startups and, with that, another set of networking events.
And where there are networking events for entrepreneurs, you are sure to hear one thing: elevator speeches, a group of words (usually in a particular order) you use to explain what you do, generate excitement and move a prospect into buying mode in less than one minute. Culturally, elevator speeches have been heralded as a marketing magic bullet. Some of this excitement is due to Shark Tank, networking gurus and our fascination with Silicon-Valley-esque lifestyles.
Regardless of popularity, most elevator speeches are inherently bad. That is not because entrepreneurs are stupid or lack enthusiasm. An effective one is an artform rarely achieved. They are so difficult that This American Life recently did a show devoted to crafting an elevator pitch – and you can hear just how uncomfortable an intelligent, articulate and passionate person sounds when attempting them.
The answer to much of this dilemma lies not in the words, tactics, colorful stories or mastery of human communications – it’s in the attitude or approach to why you are speaking in the first place.
Do you attend events to spew your audio brochure on everyone’s shoes, or do you try to help people? Are you there to get business, or are you there to add something to the world? Are you desperately looking for the next sale or investor, or are you making the business environment friendlier?
Thankfully, there are answers. And you should take heed, because he’s a lyrical business genius. The three steps to more effective networking come from none other than Vanilla Ice: Stop. Collaborate and listen.
Step One: Stop.
Stop talking about yourself so damn much. Most of us are poor at it anyway. Before you open your mouth again, consider why you want to talk in the first place. Check out Simon Sinek’s work on Start With Why or answer some of these questions that Lauren has outlined on a previous blog.
Step Two: Collaborate
Now that you know why you want to talk. Take an interest in others and find out why they do what they do. Ask them for their passion. Make connections. Be interested and interesting. Seek to understand them as another human being. The results will amaze you beyond your imagination. It works.
Step Three: Listen.
This basically means that you are receptive to feedback. Talk with your new set of collaborative partners about your pitch. They will want to help because you are now friends. Ask for criticism and pitch them again. Or better, get your friends to tell you back what they heard. Then you can really test the results of how well you articulate your vision.
Taking Vanilla’s approach is sure to create meaningful dialog in the place of uncomfortable salesy dialog. Word to your mother.