It’s counting down to you. Just two more introductions and it’s your turn to stand and deliver. Your heart is racing, sweat flows, your mouth is going dry, and your mind is a total muddle, scrambling vainly for words. All this from an innocent facilitator’s request: “Why don’t we go around the room and each of us tell everyone who he is, and add a brief word about his business.”
We are asked to make these valuable self-introductions all the time. And each time it’s usually a blend of panic, stumbled perfunctories, and almost clever taglines.
“Just a seed of imagination can give your elevator pitches a linguistic flexibility and make them much more effective,” says Eileen Sinett, founder of Comprehensive Communication Services on Plainsboro Road.
Sinett will present “Out of the Box Network Introductions,” on Tuesday, June 22, at 7:30 a.m., at the Plainsboro Public Library, before the Plainsboro Business Partnership. Attendance is free. Call 609-799-1400 for more information.
Sinett’s recruitment for this talk resulted from a Plainsboro Business Partnership meeting where the “brief” introductions dragged on so long attendees felt more like lynching than listening.
The right woman to instill brevity, Sinett has been coaching corporate leaders to speak long before the business community saw it as a necessity.
Daughter of a north Jersey serial entrepreneur, Sinett attended Emerson College, earning a bachelor’s in speech pathology and audiology, followed by a master’s in speech correction from Kean College. This clinical background led her to work first at Roosevelt Hospital, then the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
In 1979 Sinett left to found Comprehensive Communication Services, which now operates under Speaking That Connects. Today she mentors executives and teams from such clients as Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Company, Novo Nordisk, Mathematica Policy Research, as well as several politicians and professionals. She runs her own professionals networking group and is a frequent speaker on effective communication.
“Elevator introductions involve all the trauma of a major speech, plus the cramming of a half-minute time limit,” says Sinett. “That’s why most of them come across as totally routinized or artificially scripted.” She suggests that the speaker clear away the clouds of emotion and before thinking of clever things to say, consider what points he wants to present.
#b#Why pitch?#/b# Think about your listener. The real reason you are standing up and introducing yourself is to present him with some helpful expertise, and to offer him yourself — the handle to that service or product. Period. Everything else is secondary. For that reason, Sinett lists only four elements that go into a pitch.
Way to connect: “How do you do, my partners call me Sandra” (first name is often enough).
Your expertise and its benefit: “For the last 12 years the state’s hospitals have been using my medical software.”
Your company/brand name: “Hospitals like us because we at SoftMeds R Us Inc. save them each 2,000 man-hours annually.” (You need to distinguish yourself from competition); and
A memory hammer: Some tagline or opening phrase that distinctively drives you and your service into the listener’s mind. e.g. “Imagine someone making your hospital bill lower.”
Once this is covered, let it go. Sit down and smile knowingly. Now is not the time to add any contact information, like last name, phone number, website, mailing address, and driving directions. These introductions are a teaser. Those interested will seek out your business card; the others are chaff anyway.
Also, resist the temptation to condense your firm’s annual report into a few dozen fascinating sentences.
#b#Loosening the mind.#/b# “The worst part about these introductions,” says Sinett, “is that they spark so many secret problems. Most of us have been taught that it is wrong and boastful to talk about oneself.”
The shy among us feel “Oh, I can’t talk about myself. It’s too embarrassing,” she says. Conversely, those who tend to dominate life’s stage become equally tongue-tied by the half-minute limit, which is not nearly enough time to spout one’s numerous personal achievements. Many folks simply find it impossible to be brief.
Finally, there are the second-guessers. Psyches clenched, they obsess over their elevator “performance” compared with previous people who said it more cleverly. They spend the remainder of the meeting wringing their hands trying to imagine the audience response and mentally reworking their introduction.
“If I could only speak like Obama . . .” say so many nervous presenters. Invariably Sinett replies, “I always tell them they cannot. That persona is taken, try your own.”
The person who stands before a group and says more what he feels than what seems clever; the one who displays more of his own essence than emulating a model, his message strikes home. Of course, to make your personal pitch stand out amid the passing freight train of introductions, you’d better couch that persona in some pretty distinctive content.
#b#Loosening the tongue.#/b# You may feel that elevator speeches are frighteningly vital and competitive. That’s only because they are. The right self-introduction can win business while the guy next to you goes home empty.
For Sinett, the best way to take that competitive edge is to turn your focus toward the customer. What words will draw him in to you? Consider the standard introductory lead lines: “My name is . . . , and I do . . .” or “We at Acme Widget provide . . .”
These self-laudatory phrases offer no audience connection. Instead, Sinett proposes speakers develop a stock of “non-me,” connective phrases, such as “Imagine if you will” or “Have you ever wondered?”
Once the listener is involved, a final, catchy tagline can act as a strong memory hammer. Your company’s own tagline may or may not be suitable. Larger firms tend to go safely bland and vague with their taglines, such as “People Helping People.” Contrast this with the entrepreneurial consultant who finishes his intro with “We take that fire you have for your company and pass it to the people who count — the ones with money.”
Sinett stands firmly against scripting elevator pitches. It cannot help but sound canned and shows a disregard for this particular audience. If you’re bored with them, they’ll be bored with you.
“The whole point,” says Sinett “is to get creative, develop some verbal flexibility, and craft several introductions. Feel free to change them with different groups and see what most resonates.” After all, the art of subtle boasting should be fun.