7a: Tailoring Accomplishments to Networking

Although I have written articles about elevator speeches and elevator “stories,” an obvious use for communicating accomplishments while networking, I have never been completely comfortable with the concept of this type of short pitch in networking situations. (Elevator speeches are so named because they are designed to be spoken in the time it would take an elevator to travel up or down a building – typically around 30 seconds.) Some experts, in fact, have declared the elevator speech dead. These days I prefer what Stephanie West Allen calls the “Wow! How?” statement, which she defines as “a short statement of what good you do for a person or organization.” It’s a low-key way to grab attention and be memorable in networking situations by dropping a teaser line that intrigues the listener into asking you to tell your accomplishment.

One of Allen’s examples: “I show organizations how to raise the productivity of their people by incorporating a very positive mood, atmosphere and spirit.”

“After you make your statement,” Stephanie writes, “… they will say, ‘Wow! How?'” That’s when you can tell a accomplishment about how you do what you do.

Overall, keep your audience in mind when sharing accomplishments with network contacts. Think in terms of mutual benefit. How might your accomplishments offer value to the other person? Author Peggy Klaus recommends that accomplishment communications delivered in networking situations be meaningful and valuable to the other person, spoken in the context of your conversation with that person, and imbued with style and substance.

Audience is a key feature of the “pitch” approach that authors Miriam Salpeter and Laura M. Labovich recommend in their excellent book, 100 Conversations for Career Success. They offer sample networking pitches of varying lengths that spell out the target audience, the “problem I solve,” and impact/results. Sample of a short pitch with impact/results:

As a project manager and senior adviser in the environmental energy industry [target audience], I’ve had a significant impact on energy and environmental policies and can bridge the gap between the technical community and the management interests [problem I solve]. At Company X, I developed and led a green-I.T. project, which resulted in a 30% reduction in electricity costs — translating to a savings of $65,000 per year [my impact/results]

Convey any accomplishment delivered orally – not just during networking, but also in job interviews, performance evaluations, client pitches – with excitement and enthusiasm, but also humility.