by Laura Labovich
The best storytellers have one thing in common: they rarely wing it. And, once you have learned the formula for a great speed-networking pitch (in just three easy steps), you won’t have to wing it, either.
Let’s take a look at the three steps that can make your networking pitch stand out with stories of your most successful moments.
Step 1: Uncover Your “Greatest Hits”
Many people struggle to identify their accomplishments because they see those peaks as “just part of their job.” To get your ideas flowing, you have to banish those thoughts. All bets are off, and all answers are good ones. To sell yourself and (perhaps more importantly) encourage someone to continue speaking with you in the first place, you must first formulate a list of career “greatest hits” (think 80’s mixed tape!) and how you saved the day, solved the problem or served the client in your current or previous jobs.
The Five O’Clock Club generated the ridiculously effective The Seven Stories Exercise (pdf) to rev up your accomplishment engine and get you to pinpoint your successes with ease.
Start by writing down your top seven most satisfying experiences. (In this case, they should be mostly professional.) Each of these accomplishments should meet the following criteria:
- You were happy when you did it;
- You thought you did it well (so, it wasn’t a fluke);
- You experienced a sense of accomplishment.
Here are some examples:
- Digitized the entire patient history in my office
- Redesigned the quarterly newsletter to include member interviews
- Navigated through Italy without a translator
Step 2: Challenge -> Action -> Result (CAR)
After you’ve written down your accomplishments, it’s time to format them in a way that breathes some life into the story. What was the challenge? What action did you take? What was the result?
Here are some examples.
Challenge: Oversaw 70 upgrades across all departments after epic system shutdown shaved two weeks off allotted time
Action: Called for all hands on deck, delegated responsibilities and implemented planned course of action
Result: Accurately completed upgrade in a third of the time originally scheduled
Challenge: Raise test results by 10 percent to maintain school funding
Action: Developed school-wide initiative to incentivize tutoring for both teachers and students
Result: Reached average increases of 15 percent with 6th grade topping at 24 percent. Maintained funding and raised the standard for years to come.
Challenge: Remodel outdated communications system at traditional company with minimal budget
Action: Researched most efficient channels with free applications and best results
Result: Increased email subscription by 15 percent and social-media followers 150 percent in under three months
Step 3: Create your pitch
Now it’s time to craft a winning Speed Networking Pitch. Use this formula below to take the guess-work out of yours so you can begin using it quicker!
“As a [job title], I work with [share target audience] to [share a problem you solve]. And here’s the proof [tell a specific story].”
Here are some guidelines to help you stay on track, intrigue your audience and nail your speed networking pitch.
- Keep it simple. Don’t say in 20 words what you can say in one. You have about 30 seconds to get your point across. Each word you choose to say takes up valuable real estate in your listeners’ minds. (Don’t make them want to go freshen their drink!)
- Drop the jargon. Everyone knows the corporate buzzwords — “holistic,” “facilitate,” “move forward!” This, however, is not the time to use them. People want to hear an authentic overview of your expertise, not a keyword-heavy speech that feels scripted and confusing.
- It’s in the present. This story depicts what you continuously do, not what you’ve previously done!
- Make it about the client. Rather than talking about your accomplishments, design your stories to highlight how you made things better FOR YOUR CLIENT. This last piece is the key. It’s not about you. This client focus (or employer focus) is what makes this pitch exercise different from the others you’ll find. The best way to distinguish yourself is to showcase proven results of your work and how the business benefited.
Here are some examples.
[As a Public-Relations Specialist] I work with [serious product developers who have been in business for five years or more] who are looking to [fine-tune and/or rev up their public-relations engine and start landing some media coverage on national scale]. [Recently, I helped my client land a 1/2 page feature in the Washingtonian Magazine and, as a result, he is now in discussions with X company to sell the app for $1.3M].
[As a project manager at a credit union] I work with [a team of financial and technical experts] to [develop and rigorously test new products and services]. [Last month, my team launched a hugely anticipated line of corporate banking, which has already led to a 23 percent increase in business and billable accounts.]
I work with [small to medium-sized non-profits who specialize in women and children] who need help [blending photography, graphics, and text to attract demographics and prompting consumers to use their service. [Recently, I collaborated with the Coalition for Women and Children to rebrand their marketing collateral, which doubled traffic at their table at the Taste of Bethesda last weekend — unique booth visitors grew from 350 to 700 in two days!]
And, just for fun, here’s my own:
As a [Job Search Coach], I work with [job seekers who are struggling in their search, sending out resumes and/or not getting interviews] and I [teach them a proven job search methodology that enables them to stop spinning their wheels, and shave months off their job search]. Just last week, I helped a job-seeker [return to the workforce after a near fatal car accident and a 12-year hiatus. She’s so empowered and excited to start her new life].
Final Thoughts on Storytelling Success and Networking
After you’ve decided which accomplishments you want to demonstrate, diversify your arsenal to create an unstoppable repertoire of stories. It’s important to have a few on hand so you can tailor them to suit your audience.
And last but not least, practice! If it makes you feel uncomfortable to say it, don’t! And if you wouldn’t use a word in real life, it sure as heck does not belong in your pitch. Natural, authentic storytelling is what we’re after here. Now, it’s your turn.
For more information, see also these sections of Quintessential Careers:
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.
Laura M. Labovich is a former Disney recruiter, award-winning resume writer and Chief Executive Officer of The Career Strategy Group, an outplacement firm that provides a powerful methodology that empowers job seekers to LAND A JOB FASTER! Laura’s contagious enthusiasm and proven strategy have garnered attention such national news outlets such as The Washington Post, Fox News, NBC, USA Today, Sirius XM, and more. Laura is the co-author of 100 Conversations for Career Success (LearningExpress, 2012), a FORBES 2013 top career book selection. She is also the author of a robust online job search course called HIRED! (Pearson, 2014).