Your Freelance Introduction Without the “Yuck!” Factor
Love them or hate them, elevator speeches are here to stay. They’re those self-introductions that people give at networking mixers and other venues.
The best ones stick with you for a lifetime.
When the late film director Alfred Hitchcock was asked what he produced, he said “Gooseflesh.” Or how about the government employee who was asked what he did? Answer: “I work for you.”
The trouble with these short, clever introductions is that they can easily become too clever. And awkward.
Case in Point: In a post on problem elevator speeches, I told the story of a dentist with a self-intro that just wasn’t right for him. To recap:
I was listening to a radio comedy show that is famous (or infamous) for the host’s penchant for wandering around the theater and mingling with audience members. During one broadcast, the host encountered a dentist. When asked what he did for a living, the dentist said, “I’m a smile designer.”
I could have sworn that I heard that man grimacing over the radio. He was obviously uncomfortable using such clever marketing-speak to describe his profession.
What’s worse, the host and the rest of the audience found the concept of “smile designer” to be hilariously funny. I’m willing to bet that the dentist went back to using the D-word to describe himself.
Moral of the Story: There’s nothing quite like a nationally broadcast radio program for revealing the awkwardness of an overly clever self-intro.
So, what’s a freelancer who occasionally ventures out and attends networking mixers to do? Have a self-intro that you’ll feel comfortable using. Here are four tips from a Presentation Skills for Networking workshop that I recently attended here in Tucson:
- Tip 1: Understand that you don’t have unlimited time to introduce yourself. Think 30 seconds. That may be all you get. Some groups limit intros to 10 seconds – and they use timers.
- Tip 2: Use this formula to create your short, snappy intro. First, give your first and last name. Then say that you help WHO (your ideal clients) with/to WHAT (the results you help them to achieve). Finish by sharing the HOW, which is the best way to reach you (via telephone, e-mail, website, or a physical location).
Tip 3: Use the WHO-WHAT-HOW formula sooner, rather than later. Our presenter, Terri Sinclair, had us draft a self-intro, which we then had to share with the group.
For some of the people in attendance, this was a truly painful experience. There was one guy who’s been in business in this town for a long time. And he has a lot to offer. He tried to cram it all into a 30-second intro, and it was like standing under a waterfall of words. Time to simplify – and multiply. As in, one message per service. And different introductions for each service. Talk about a big homework assignment.
Me? I said that I’m Martha Retallick, a freelance designer, photographer, and writer. My job is to make clients look good and sound good. And they can contact me via my website. (The URL is in the profile that accompanies this article.)
That was good enough for instructor Terri, and I was comfortable with what I’d come up with. I tried it at another networking mixer the following evening. No one ran for the exits. Success! This leads me to my final tip…
- Tip 4: The intro you’re using now is a work in progress. Expect the ongoing task of refining it or changing it. You might find yourself in a situation like the multi-talented man who had so much to offer but so little time to explain. So, draft a set of intros and use the most appropriate one for the situation you’re in.
Use the Right Tool for the Job
The trouble with elevator speeches is that they tend to show up in places where they’re not welcome. You’ve probably heard them at parties. Or at church.
As longtime marketing consultant Leslie Burns says, “[N]o one gives a [expletive omitted] who you are or what you do when you shill. It’s totally off-putting to get the spiel–be that at a party or in an actual elevator. Car salesman-esque. Fake. Ew.”
What is Burns’ solution? Here it is:
My ‘elevator speech’ is I’m a marketing consultant and lawyer for creative professionals. That’s it, because all I’m doing is answering the question ‘What do you do?’ Why only this? Because I’m not pushing the sale (that is very old and disliked) and I leave space for a dialogue by NOT answering all the implied questions…. I’m letting go of trying to control the interaction and in so doing get better results.
There you have it. The answer to the question that isn’t going away anytime soon. I like to say that I’m a freelance designer, photographer, and writer, and then ask the other person what he or she does.
Here’s the fun part: I like to don my reporter’s hat and pretend that I’m interviewing that person. I tried this at the aforementioned Presentation Skills for Networking workshop. My interviewee was the co-owner of a new coffeehouse, and she had wonderful stories to share about the people who wander in from the bus station across the street. Had I stuck to Which leads to my final bit of advice: Don't be so wedded to Sales Mode that you miss the opportunity to make a new friend. I like to think that’s how my conversation with the coffeehouse co-owner ended. After all, there’s more to life than networking for business.
Which leads to my final bit of advice: Don't be so wedded to Sales Mode that you miss the opportunity to make a new friend. I like to think that’s how my conversation with the coffeehouse co-owner ended. After all, there’s more to life than networking for business.