Years ago, I remember seeing a Saturday Night Live skit where Chevy Chase (playing his famous news anchor role) said something like: “In other news, social scientists have announced that the world’s population continues to grow at a steady 5% a year and that there are now an estimated 5.3 billion people on the planet. The number of interesting ones, however, hasn’t changed. That number is still 17.”
Okay, fine. This might be a little over the top, but I’ll tell you, it hit me the other day that there’s a grain of truth in this sketch that actually has a serious bearing on the fortunes of many job hunters. As obvious as it sounds, what struck me was the fact that so many elevator pitches one hears out there (“Hi there. My name is John Smith and I’m a seasoned, results-oriented operations manager with over 27 years of diverse experience in…”) suffer from a fatal flaw: they’re just unquestionably, undeniably, painfully BORING!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m saying this with love in my heart, as well as a big “mea culpa” in recognition that I haven’t done a better job recognizing and promoting this idea in the past when helping people with their elevator pitch development. After chatting with a number of clients lately, however, and asking them what stood out about some of the people they’d met with recently, I realized that the amount of the standard “resume stuff” like job titles, industry background, and the like that they were retaining was roughly zero. The things they were remembering about people were almost always more personal. Or unique. Or off the beaten path. Things like “Oh, that guy! Isn’t he the one who just moved here from Rhode Island?” or “You know, I really liked Steve, the Eagle Scout” or “Betty…Betty…oh yeah, she’s the one who shows her toy poodle at Kennel Club shows!”
Again, this realization was so obvious when it hit me that if it were the proverbial snake, I’d be a severely bitten man right now. But I sense I’m not the only one out there who has overlooked the importance of making sure, first and foremost, that you come across as INTERESTING when you introduce yourself to people. In hindsight, it’s hard to deny that this is the greatest single ingredient in an effective pitch, since without it, you’re clearly sunk. You may get a string of courtesy nods and some polite follow-up questions from the folks you encounter — heck, this is Seattle, after all — but the moment you walk away, they’re going to be flushing their short-term memory of anything you said that didn’t have any oomph or sticking power behind it.
So at the risk of being presumptuous, since I’m somewhat late to the party with this realization, I thought I’d quickly outline my own personal thoughts about what tends to make for MORE vs. LESS interesting material when it comes to personal introductions and networking banter. Feel free to agree, disagree, or add suggestions accordingly…
• Geographical places (e.g. where you live, where you grew up, where you came from originally…)
• Specific company names (e.g. where you’ve worked, where you’ve applied for jobs, where your spouse works…)
• Passionate feelings (e.g. core beliefs, convictions, solutions you’d enjoy providing, what you love most about your life/career… )
• Interesting observations (e.g. market predictions, business insights, trends, surprising developments…)
• Humor (e.g. this is dangerous and highly subjective ground, but if you make somebody laugh, they’ll remember you!)
• Personal breakthroughs (e.g. key milestones you’ve reached, successes you’ve had, challenges you’ve overcome…)
• Hobbies (e.g. as long as they’re genuinely interesting and appropriate for mixed company…)
• How many years you’ve been in the workforce
• Your skills, experience, and qualifications
• The job titles you’ve held in the past or are targeting now
• Your own personal wants and needs
• Your current job situation (and any related anxieties about it)
• Your setbacks (e.g. interview failures, frustrations, etc.)
This is just what comes to the top of mind when I mentally thumb through the list of people who have recently made a distinct positive impression on me, versus those I’ve bumped into and now only seem to have fuzzy recall around. So again, whether you’re a professional in transition or somebody else (business owner, sales rep, etc.) who needs to have a high-quality pitch under your belt, I’d urge you to seriously evaluate the “interest quotient” of how you’re introducing yourself to people. You may feel you have to keep things strictly business and within a sanitized comfort zone, but my personal experience is that this approach will fall short of accomplishing your ultimate goal — which is to be somebody who people will remember and be willing/able to help out, going forward!
I’ll be retooling my pitch, accordingly. How about you?