Does anybody really like giving an elevator speech? They are cumbersome to memorize. They don’t sound conversational. They make me want to puke! I don’t like giving or receiving them.
Because people don’t like giving an elevator speech in one-on-one conversation, all too often, they go to the other extreme. When asked the question “What do you do?” they answer with a boring description of their job title. Yawn.
Would you like an elevator speech alternative, a short, benefit-focused statement that leaves your conversation partner leaning forward, asking for more?
Try a bumper sticker statement! A bumper sticker statement is one sentence that briefly states what you do and what benefit you bring.
Here’s a bumper sticker statement I might use:
If I want something shorter and more intriguing, I might use a tag line alternative:
The video (3:46) explains how to craft your bumper sticker!
Try Your Elevator Speech Alternative: The Bumper Sticker!
If you are in a formal networking situation, in which people have 45-60 seconds to give an elevator speech in a group setting, you can expand on your bumper sticker (this is also useful to use in conversation, if the person asks for more details). I’ve called whomever you do work for your “customer.” Even if you aren’t in sales you can consider your work as benefiting a “customer.”:
I help: _______________________________________________ (your “customer”)
with _________________________________________________ (problem you solve, benefit-focused)
When they work with me they _______________________________ (how do you make your “customer’s” life better?
This results in: __________________________________________ (positive outcomes)
If you are talking with someone one-on-one, this format, which is fine for a short “commercial” at a networking event, will sound stilted. Better to ditch the pitch and just use the elevator speech alternative, the “bumper sticker” in conversation!
To learn more about networking and small talk, get my book, Small Talk Big Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success!
A conversational vampire is someone who sucks the life out of a conversation, usually with no ill-intent, in typically one of 3 ways:
- talking too much and not letting others participate
- talking too little and forcing others to carry the conversation
- talking about things that are not interesting to others
There is one simple way to address all three issues: be a mind reader!
OK. I suppose that’s not realistic.
But, if you knew what the other person was thinking and feeling, you could adjust your conversation.
You can be a “mind reader” through asking questions, listening for responses and observing body language and facial expressions.
As you are conversing, test how talkative the other person wants to be by asking questions to encourage them to talk. Some people actually do prefer that others talk more and these types of people will sometimes have shorter responses and turn the conversation back to you by asking you a question. Short responses, without a reciprocal question, can mean that a person wants to exit the conversation. Others enjoy having listeners and will go on and on without much prompting. You test the conversational waters to find a balance for the particular person you are talking with.
To avoid being boring by talking about things that people aren’t interested in, try to gauge interest by giving some context for the topic, and asking a question to find out what the other person’s experience is with that topic. It is helpful to have some “go-to” topics that most people are likely to be interested in. My go-to general topics are health & fitness, recent movies, and children/grandchildren. If I’m at an event, I will have event or industry-specific topics, too.
Body language and facial expressions can tell you a lot about interest. When a person makes lots of eye contact, nods in agreement and leans forward, he or she is intensely interested. Looking away, pointing feet away, repetitive body motions (such as tapping fingers), or yawning, in addition to short answers all indicate disinterest.
Pay attention to your conversation partner and don’t be a conversation vampire!
From the first chapter of Small Talk Big Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success!
Locubrevisphobia (n.) A pathological fear of making small talk, often resulting in the sufferer avoiding social and networking events [from Latin “locu,” speak, and “brevis,” short + phobia].
OK. I made that up. But many people do have fears that hold them back from making small talk.
Let’s take a look at the four most common fears that hold people back.
1. Fear of the unknown. When I was little, my mom said, “Don’t talk to strangers!” For some people, that childhood fear of strangers persists into adulthood.
Attitude Booster: Act like a host, not a guest.
You are at a business networking event and have done your reconnaissance—checked out who is there and identified potential conversation partners. You’re ready to make your move, but there is that twinge of nervousness. Are you nervous about introducing yourself to total strangers?
Consider a different scenario for the next networking event you attend. Think of yourself as an event’s host and not its guest.
As a host, you would introduce yourself to people you don’t know and introduce them to others. Wouldn’t you tell them where to find the food and drinks? Wouldn’t you introduce people as they arrive? A host has an active role as opposed to the passive role of a guest. You can play the role of the host even though you are not the actual host. Get in the habit of holding out your hand first and saying, “Hi, my name is ____________.”
2. Fear of rejection. Anytime you open your mouth and speak, even just to chit chat, you risk rejection. If you never talk to people, you won’t be rejected. But guess what? If you never talk to people, you will also be very lonely.
The best way I’ve found to overcome the fear of rejection is to focus on how I feel when I am accepted. It’s a great feeling and it’s worth risking rejection.
Attitude Booster: Recall the beginnings of your important relationships.
Ask yourself: what do I have to lose? Nothing! What do I have to gain? Possibly everything! Think back to when you first met your spouse or another important person in your life. How did it all start? You probably started with small talk.
I remember when my husband and I met. I was 17 and at my first beer-kegger party. As neither he nor I drink beer, I suppose it was fate that the only two sober people there would strike up a conversation. We were both geeky types, so our geeky small talk worked out just fine. More than 30 years later we are still together.
3. Fear of being a bore. You know what it’s like to hear someone drone on and on, so you don’t want to be the person others want to escape!
Attitude Booster: If you are afraid of being a bore, you probably won’t be one.
There is a simple solution, too. As long as the other person is talking, they are NOT bored! By encouraging them to talk, you become the most fascinating conversationalist they’ve ever talked to.
4. Fear of looking stupid. You are afraid that if you open your mouth, you will insert your foot. Or, maybe you won’t know what to say.
Attitude Booster: This fear is bigger in your mind than in reality!
It just doesn’t happen that often. But if it does, an effective technique is to make fun of yourself. If you can make fun of yourself, you will put others at ease. This fear is easily overcome with practice and preparation.
Have you ever suffered from locubrevisphobia? What has helped you overcome your fear of small talk?
Brush up your small talk and networking skills by getting the book!
One effective method is to get them talking about themselves!
Recent research has confirmed what all great conversationalists already know: people like to talk about themselves.
Talking about oneself, which is 30-40% of what most people talk about (and a whopping 80% of posts to social media sites), activates areas of the brain associated with pleasure and is so intrinsically rewarding that people are willing to forgo monetary rewards for talking about others or talking about facts so that they can talk about themselves. People like to self-disclose and “get naked,” conversationally.
If you can get people talking about themselves, they will be more engaged. People are always engaged when they do something that brings them pleasure.
Here are basic steps to encouraging self-disclosure and increasing engagement:
1. Provide a safe, non-threatening environment. This might mean getting away from the office or away from certain people. This also means talking without time-pressure. If someone has a deadline approaching, they go into survival mode and are less willing to self-disclose.
2. Commit to listening more than talking, generally.
3. Climb the self-disclosure ladder by self-disclosing a little bit about yourself. Sharing a little bit about yourself can encourage the other person to share about themselves.
For example, in talking with people lower on the org chart, open up about some of your failures to show that you aren’t perfect and don’t expect others to be perfect. The more your self-disclosure can make you seem similar to the person you are talking with, the more likely is it that they will in turn self-disclose.
3. Use open body language. Smile warmly and then keep a pleasant, interested expression when the other person talks. Lean in a little. Nod to let them see you “get” what they are saying.
4. Entice with conversation that encourages people to talk:
- Ask open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no.”)
- Use phrases that prompt people to self-disclose (Tell me about . . .)
- Keep it simple! Don’t be too complicated in your word choices or sentence structure. Complexity leads to confusion. Confusion can lead to reduced willingness to take risks. And, as much as we all like it, self-disclosure can be risky
- Be a reflective listener. Don’t just listen, but respond to let others know that you heard them by repeating, summarizing and asking clarifying questions. “So, what I think you mean is . . .” Also, listen for keywords that you can repeat to move the conversation forward.
John: I’m not sure I’m qualified to lead this project
Tim: You don’t think you’re qualified?
John: Well, I don’t think I have the technical background that is needed.
Tim: Tell me what kind of technical background you think is needed.
While, you don’t want to get uncomfortably personal, if you climb the ladder to increasing self-disclosure, not only will it actually be pleasurable, but it will engage.
Have you found other ways to encourage self-disclosure?
1. Focus on What you Want. I think the number one thing you can do is to focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. If you focus on the outcome you desire, or on the relationships you want to develop instead of what could go wrong, you will approach networking events with a positive mindset.
It’s very easy to let your fear grow to Goliath proportions. But just like David slew Goliath with small stones from a sling shot, you can shoot down your fears with small and simple steps.
2. Face the Fear. Realizing that it is very hard not to focus on what might go wrong, at times I allow myself to focus on the fear just long enough to deal with it. I like to play the “Worst Case Scenario” game when it comes to possible negative outcomes. What is the worst case scenario that could happen in being judged or rejected at a networking event? Is the other person likely to throw a punch at you? No. Is your life in danger? No. Are they even likely to laugh at you? Probably not. In reality, the fear is of saying something wrong–something stupid or offensive. Right? So, ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen if I say something stupid?” Probably the worst thing that can happen is that the other person may judge you based on that one interaction and you won’t do business with them. Is that OK with you? Is it OK that you don’t do business with everyone you meet?
Then, depending on what your worst case scenario is, you can even have a plan for how to handle it. For example, I still struggle with remembering people’s names. My worst case scenario is running into someone whose name I should know, but I can’t recall. I actually have a few different plans for handling that situation. But, my fall back is to simply admit it. I just face the fear, plan for how to deal with it and move on. Just mentally deal with it and get over it.
3. Give a Gift. What I mean by “give a gift” is to believe that you have something of great value to offer. A gift. If you don’t already believe this, then you need to spend some time developing your own list of advantages and benefits. When you believe that you have something of great value to offer, you get the same feeling that you have when you give someone a gift that is the perfect gift. You get excited to give it. You focus more on the other person and less on yourself. Fear is very inward-looking. Focus outward by focusing on the other person and what you have to offer. Give a gift.
4. Find Friends. Consider strangers as friends you haven’t met yet. Think about it. Aside from blood-relatives, all the important people in your life–your spouse, your best friend, your current business associates–they were all strangers at one time.
One thing I sometimes do as I enter a room full of strangers is to pause, look around at the people, and imagine that they are already my good friends that I haven’t seen in ages. I think to myself, “Hello, old friends.” And, these “old friends” probably have their own fears of rejection, too! You can focus on helping them feel comfortable–that’s something you’d do for a friend!
Focus on what you want. Face the fear. Give a gift. Find some friends.
Do you have some tips for reducing nervousness?