Networking is one of the most critical skills for a business owner to master. A single connection can sometimes be the key that opens the door to the next leg of your professional journey, which is why developing a solid networking pitch is so essential.
Fortunately, every meeting with a new connection allows you to introduce yourself, build rapport, practice your introduction and refine your approach.
Below, 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council share practical steps to take your networking pitch to the next level so that you can continue to add to your strong system of valuable business connections at every event.
Jump down to #10 to read my perspective about having a clear intention and expected outcome.
Forbes Coaches Council members share tips to help professionals refine their networking pitch. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.
- Reframe Networking As Relationship-Building
Networking is less about pitching what you do and what you know to others and more about getting to know the other person and letting them get to know you. Focus on building the connection, asking questions and truly listening. Build the relationship, and deeper conversations will follow. – Kristy Busija, Next Conversation Coaching, LLC
- Perfect Your Storytelling Capabilities
Take your storytelling capabilities seriously. Forget “elevator pitches”—what an uncompelling snore. Perfect your storytelling. Give each story a name. Be able to tell each one at different durations depending on the circumstance. Be full of surprises. Someone else is the hero of your story. Show a dash—no more, no less—of vulnerability. The most powerful weapon? A well-told story. – John Evans, Evans&Evans Consulting
- Use No More Than Four Words
When the leader is clear, everything and everyone is clear. The best thing that a professional can do to refine their pitch is to make it clear and short. If a person can describe what they do in four words or less, they can impact those they are meeting for the first time. Four strong words will be memorable and will connect them to their audience. – Ken Gosnell, CEO Experience
- Take A Genuine Interest In Others
First, take a genuine interest in others, ask questions and listen. When you get asked, “What do you do?” keep it simple and focus on the value you deliver or the problem you solve. For an executive coach, it could be, “I develop high-performing leaders.” For someone in finance, it could be, “I help executives make critical financial decisions.” Then, share a quick example to bring it to life. – Neena Newberry, Newberry Solutions
- Share A Life Fact Or Experience First
Never, ever start networking with a pitch. Find a way to share a life fact or experience first so that you can make an authentic connection. Once you do, they will naturally be curious about you and more willing to hear your story. For example, talk about a recent vacation, how you beat traffic to get to the event or how you are preparing for a big, upcoming meeting. – Karan Rhodes, Shockingly Different Leadership (SDL)
- Get To Know Others By Asking Questions
As Maya Angelou said, people don’t remember what you said but how you made them feel. Your pitch should never be about you; it should be about getting to know the other person and asking them insightful questions. Be authentic and say things such as, “I was really nervous about coming here because I’m not comfortable talking about myself. How do you get around it?” – Eric Beaudan, Odgers Berndtson
- Make It Practical, Personal And Slightly Weird
Pitching is not about overpromising and ultimately underdelivering, but about making others curious and building relationships. If your answer to the question “What do you do?” does not sound natural and clear, people can sense that it is an image they cannot trust. Your story makes you credible, and your credentials make you more influential. It does not really work the other way around. – Csaba Toth, ICQ Global
- Find Ways To Collaborate, Not Dominate
Networking is a reciprocal relationship. Do not go into a networking event or conversation with the objective of only sharing about what you do. Be sure to ask questions, find commonalities and find ways to collaborate, not dominate. – Kimberly Olson, The Goal Digger Girl
- Share Your Passion
Get clear on both your personal and professional missions (what you’re working toward and why). It should be something you’re passionate about. When you share your passion, it can amplify your network. Why? People will naturally want to connect you with others who share a similar mission. – Chris Herndon, lucidly™️
- Have A Clear Intention And An Expected Outcome
Establish a clear intention for and an expected outcome from the event. Know why you are there and who you are interested in meeting; then, you can customize your networking pitch to speak to the reason why you are there, who you are interested in connecting with and what your outcome objective is. – Michela Quilici, MQ Consulting and Business Training, Inc.
- Join A Toastmasters Club For Practice
If you’re looking to refine your networking pitch and take it to the next level, consider joining a Toastmasters club. Toastmasters is an international organization that offers training and workshops on public speaking. Joining a Toastmasters club will give you the opportunity to practice your networking pitch in front of a group of people and get feedback from experienced public speakers. – Peter Boolkah, The Transition Guy
- Practice In The Mirror And On Zoom Calls
There are many ways a professional can upskill their pitch. The first (and often overlooked) method is to practice, practice and practice some more—preferably in the mirror and/or on recorded Zoom calls to look back at later. Other great resources include clubs such as Toastmasters. – Joshua Miller, Joshua Miller Executive Coaching
- Host A Roundtable Discussion
There is really nothing better than taking the bull by the horns. Dive in an offer to host a roundtable, create opportunities for those fireside chats and be deliberate on what and how you want to come across. Each type of engagement requires a nuanced approach. Be open to learning through making mistakes and use that to refine your pitch, based on direct feedback. – Arthi Rabikrisson, Prerna Advisory
- Genuinely Care About Others
At a networking event, make it more about them than it is about you. Other than the basics of maintaining eye contact and using positive body language, ask powerful questions—”Who are you?” “What’s your life mission?”—show a genuine interest in what others do and ask what types of people they are looking to connect with. Then, make sure to follow up with them within a week’s time. – Marc Zalmanoff, Marc Zalmanoff LLC
This article was originally published on Forbes.com