I thought Part 1, The Elevator Speech: Short, Sweet and Authentic, said everything nicely. But after an unscheduled tutorial on a flight to Philadelphia, it occurred to me that there was a definite Part 2 to guarantee successful communication.
Recently, I had one of those flying experiences that could have put me off travel forever. The flight was delayed, my seat was reassigned to the middle, and the folks on either side of me were itching to chat. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a curious and friendly person. After all, I ask questions and reflect back for a living! But what I realized, as we stalled on the tarmac, was that my friend to the left was going to “pitch” me about his billing services and my other new friend to the right, was going to assess my net worth for “a ‘great new financial product that should be in everybody’s portfolio”… and I had nowhere to hide!
I learned a lot on that trip, but not about billing services or financial products. When the goal is to engage your listener in a genuine and authentic way, I learned what NOT to do — including running the risk of repelling your listener. (Who is trapped on a plane beside you!)
Jon, on the left, actually used the word “pitch” when he introduced himself. Instead of gauging whether I had any interest in billing software, he offered up a dazzling array of services his company could provide. This recitation was too much about what he could do for me without ever asking if I was in a position to use billing services. (As it turns out, I am, and I’m always interested in asking about how to customize it for our field. But I never got the chance to ask!)
So, here’s the takeaway:
Rule #1: Have a conversation, not a monologue.
Rule #2: Say what you love in one sentence, then listen to the response.
Rule# 3: Gauge interest, ask a question, and listen again.
I learned more on that trip from Helen, the financial services guru to my right. She was on fire — bright, articulate, and interested in teaching me everything I didn’t know about a certain kind of stock fund. Here’s the catch, though: I didn’t ask! She missed the cue that I was not particularly interested or that I was unable to personally use her services. She just kept going…and going. It was clear to me she was knowledgeable about her work and certainly passionate! But if she had assessed my interest, saw some curiosity, maybe there would have been an opportunity to have a great conversation about the market. I probably wouldn’t have bought into her services but I would certainly have passed on her card to someone who might.
Here’s the funny thing. I got a word in and let Helen know that her verve and love of the work was apparent. I also mentioned that it must be very, very stressful, especially in these volatile economic times. She wholeheartedly agreed with a sigh. I went on to tell her that I worked with a lot of women like her — women trying to balance life and work while being stranded on a tarmac or stuck in an airport. And guess what? After a few minutes of assessing her interest and determining a need, I told her I knew a great psychotherapist in Philadelphia and asked, would she like the name? Then the second funny thing happened. Jon, Helen, and I had a great discussion about workplace stress and got to share our experiences. I have those business cards after all, and they have mine. Our conversation was authentic and relied on the age-old process of give and take, empathy, and problem solving. We ended up speaking honestly about something we all could relate to and the flight to Philadelphia turned out to be quite pleasant.
So the next time you would like to convey your passion and tell someone what you love to do, follow the rules. And add one more:
Rule #4: Only after following rules 1, 2, and 3 should you hand out your business card!