When you get on an elevator you have a finite amount of time with the people on the elevator with you. Depending on the company, this may be a blessing. Nothing sparks up my claustrophobia like a crowded elevator. But when you get the chance to meet someone you want to meet on the elevator, you want to make that moment count. In many ways this is how networking works: the never-ending task of “casually” meeting people in your line of work who could potentially turn out to be an asset to you and vice versa.
I was given this imagine of the “elevator speech” by a career counselor while I was in school. The premise is simple: the person you want to talk to is getting off in three floors. You have just enough time to tell them 1) who you are, 2) what you’re doing, and 3) what you want to do.
The reason this is an apt analogy to networking is that no one has time to hear your life story. They don’t care enough (yet), nor can they spend the time. What they need to know is who you are, what you are doing, and what you hope to be doing.
Here’s an example: John is an actor. He is working as an intern at a theatre company. He’d like to working as an actor in a production. You can get more specific than that, but that’s the idea.
Too often we get bogged down in details that don’t pertain to the person you’re talking to. If John met a casting director or director, that quick speech would be effective in letting them know in a snapshot who he is. It’s less important that he’s from Wisconsin and his favorite color is plaid, and his dog’s name is sparkles. Not important.
Now, if in this first interaction with someone you’re able to spark more conversation, that’s great. I find that in opportunities to network and connect with people, it’s either at a party, event, or some other loud venue. When everyone is mingling about and wanting to meet as many people as they can, it may be better to stick to the bullet points.
This is also why you should think about what and who you are. Depending on who I talk to I’m a music director, pianist, composer, or writer. It matters a great deal who is listening to your elevator speech. The important thing is to connect on their level, and try to give an honest, concise portrait of who you are.