I don’t know who came up with the expression “elevator pitch” but I have come to the conclusion that its (over)use is a turn-off for many of the lawyers we coach. This set me thinking. Undoubtedly, “elevator pitch” is a cliché but there’s another problem with it: An undue emphasis on the concept and its readiness for use with new contacts distracts from the reality that our networks are as much about the people we already know (or with whom we have a link) as they are about strangers. Think family, friends, friends of friends, colleagues, friends of colleagues and professional contacts.
Really powerful networking is about the journey from KNOW to LIKE to TRUST. In practice, trust is unlikely to be achieved in the short term without intensive exposure. Meaningful relationships are built over time. And so it goes with networking: Stay in touch. Be engaged. Be in conversation. Be of service to your connections. Share information not me-formation. Invest your time without an eye to short-term ROI. Be committed to developing a relationship. In other words, connect with purpose but without agenda.
Networking then, whether for career purposes or for business development, has to be about so much more than that a well-rehearsed 30 second “pitch”. None of this is to say that it’s not important to have a quick and effective way to say who you are and what you do by way of an introduction (or even better, whom you help and how you help them). It is. But more important is the need to stay in touch over the long term. After all, networking is not only about relationship building but also about sustaining relationships. And, let’s face it: Relationship building is easier in the absence of need. If you leave it until you need a favor or want a new job, it will likely be transparent and may be too late. As useful as it is, social media may lure us into thinking that networking is simply about being “connected” and sending an email to ask for help or to pitch yourself, but that’s like aiming to get from A to Z by cutting out all the letters of the alphabet in between.
We are nearly all in a hurry to get results. So, by all means, be prepared with a snappy “elevator pitch” for events and first meetings but remember that building a sustainable network takes time – it’s the social equivalent of taking the stairs. It will take longer to get to where you are going but, with effort and repetition, you and your network will be all the stronger for it.