Pitching and networking are two skills that are often used in the same settings. These skills contribute to your ability to make a positive, lasting impression of yourself and your project/business. The foundational skills needed to be a good networker and pitcher will help you build confidence through a process of practice, trial, and error.
Networking can take place almost anywhere and often sparks on a note of common interest, leading to a more in-depth discussion of ideas or business opportunities. While networking is commonly used to further your professional development, it can also manifest as a simple discussion. Use this as an opportunity to show what you are passionate about, share perspectives, and listen to what others have to say. Not every conversation will yield a specific opportunity, but these types of encounters are chances to learn and to build relationships that may bring opportunities later on. When the conversation does turn into a potential opportunity, be prepared to talk about how your skills and interests apply.
Pitching is a tool that can be used in formal pitching settings or informally integrated into a conversation. A pitch, often about 60-90 seconds long, is a slightly more structured way of introducing yourself or your project to an individual or audience that quickly communications some very key messaging. Your pitch may vary slightly depending on who you're talking to, so practicing and knowing your information very well will help you be able to adapt it to a particular conversation.
Why It’s Important
Networking is a critical tool in establishing mutually beneficial professional relationships. Building your network allows you to improve your skills, keeps you informed of industry developments and job opportunities, and is a great way to meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients. It’s also a critical step in making others aware of your project and what you’re doing.
A mistake often made at large networking events is rushing to meet as many people as possible. Networking is about making meaningful connections that can offer returns down the road; take the time to make a memorable impression on the people you’re meeting; sometimes less is more.
Don’t forget to ask questions and listen to the other person - they’re networking too! Offer to introduce them to people in your network that you think could benefit them. This encourages them to reciprocate and offer their help to you.
When it comes to professional networking, you must know how to effectively and concisely communicate your ideas. The commonly-referred “elevator pitch” is a great tool to have handy for sharing ideas in a conversation - your pitch should highlight the critical points of your idea, focusing on what makes it unique and innovative, be memorable, engaging, and easy to understand.
Networking in Action
At a networking event:
Pitching in Action
When preparing your pitch, keep in mind the basic purpose: to be concise, clear, and memorable. Here are some prompts to help you start crafting your pitch:
It is also helpful to think of what you need your audience to believe for them to give you more of their time. The following list is a good starting point:
When you have the answers to these questions you will have a better understanding of how to frame your pitch. Your pitch should answer these questions for your audience without blatantly stating them.
Also, avoid mentioning too many numbers - it can be overwhelming and distract from the main message. Use your statistics to emphasize the impact of your work rather than define it.
To practice, share your pitch with a friend or colleague and ask them to summarize what you said. This will help you see what points stand out to your audience and whether the message you’re getting across is actually what you want to say. You may want to have audience-specific pitches ready to appeal to, for example, potential partners versus consumers.
Asserting Your Lived Experience
What if you’re the only one in the room that looks like you? That talks like you? What if you’re in a room full of established professionals, and you’re feeling unqualified in comparison?
Asserting your lived experience as a qualification in your pitches and networking conversations is a great way to overcome anxiety and imposter syndrome while setting you apart from the rest. Your lived experience can be seen as a qualification, if you frame it right. It’s great to consider how you’ll do this beforehand:
“What is valid knowledge and who decides this?”
“Just like we, as youth, need the guidance of experts who understand the field, I think we have generational knowledge that can enhance the relevance and effectiveness of expert knowledge.”
Asserting your lived experience takes practice, try different approaches and find your comfort with a few rehearsed mini-pitches.
Pitching: To present an idea to people and make an ask of how they can support
Networking: exchanging information with others in a social setting
Jargon: unique words or expressions that are used by a particular group (industry) of people