My hometown of St. Louis has seen a surge in entrepreneurial activity. Each day brings with it a new organization to support startups and, with that, another set of networking events.
Where there are networking events for entrepreneurs, you are sure to hear one thing: elevator speeches, quick presentations that explain what you do, generate excitement and move a prospect into buying mode in less than one minute. Culturally, elevator speeches have been heralded as a marketing magic bullet. Some of this excitement is due to “Shark Tank,” networking gurus and a bubbling fascination with Silicon-Valley-esque lifestyles.
Regardless of popularity, most elevator speeches are inherently bad. That is not because entrepreneurs are stupid or lack enthusiasm. It’s just that an effective one is an artform rarely achieved. They are so difficult that “This American Life” recently had an episode devoted to crafting an elevator pitch, and you can hear just how uncomfortable an intelligent, articulate and passionate person sounds when attempting one.
The answer to much of this dilemma lies not in the words, tactics, colorful stories or mastery of human communications. It’s in the attitude or approach to why you are speaking in the first place.
Do you attend events to spew your audio brochure on everyone’s shoes, or do you try to help people? Are you there to get business, or are you there to add something to the world? Are you desperately looking for the next sale or investor, or are you making the business environment friendlier?
Thankfully, there are answers. And you should take heed, because he’s a lyrical business genius. The three steps to more effective networking come from none other than Vanilla Ice: Stop. Collaborate and listen.
Step One: Stop.
Stop talking about yourself so much. Most of us are not very good at it anyway. Before you open your mouth again, consider why you want to talk in the first place. Check out Simon Sinek’s work on Start With Why or answer some of these questions.
Step Two: Collaborate
Now that you know why you want to talk, take an interest in others and find out why they do what they do. Ask them about their passion. Make connections. Be interested and interesting. Seek to understand people as human beings. The results will amaze you beyond your imagination. It works.
Step Three: Listen.
Be receptive to feedback. Talk with your new set of collaborative partners about your pitch. They will want to help, because you took an interest in them. Ask for criticism and pitch them again. Better yet, get your friends to tell you back what they heard. Then you can really test the results of how well you articulate your vision.
Taking Vanilla’s approach is sure to create meaningful dialog in the place of uncomfortable salesy dialogue. Word to your mother.
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Jeremy Nulik is an account executive at KolbeCo Marketing Resources. A version of this article originally appeared on the KolbeCo blog.