The traditional elevator pitch may be a thing of the past, but elevator networking is the wave of the future.
The average elevator ride is 118 seconds long. For business owners and professionals, those few seconds can provide a tremendous opportunity for connection that can ultimately impact the success of their companies and careers.
In the elevator, there is an opportunity to be memorable, to build relationship and generate business referrals —all in the span of 118 seconds.
Below are my top strategies for successful elevator networking in today’s business climate:
1. Speak up.
When a businessperson steps onto an elevator, there’s really no time to lose. The first to speak will guide the short conversation, so being the first to comment will place you in a position of networking power.
You should be armed and ready with interesting conversation starters that will be useful to fellow elevator riders (as opposed to annoying).
Some of my favorite conversation starters include:
Beginning with a compliment: This works for both men and women and is a great way to open up a friendly conversation. Complimenting someone’s tie, dress or watch is a great way to start.
Sharing a quick fact: “Did you know that if you accidently press one of the floors on most elevators, you can press that same button twice to remove it?” By arming yourself with short, interesting facts like these, you can capture people’s attention and begin a conversation easily.
Taking notice of what others are doing: A smart elevator rider can take notice of the floor his fellow elevator companion presses and begin a conversation based on that. By asking “What company is on the seventh floor?” you can find out where your elevator companion works and what he or she does. This conversation leads to future interaction that is centered around business – an excellent boon to elevator networking.
Asking for advice: A quick question such as “Where is the best coffee around here?” will open up conversation with elevator riders and could also lead to a future coffee networking appointment.
The key to networking is to remember the people you’ve met and remember as many details about them as possible. I would suggest using your voice recorder which is on most smartphones or jot down some key conversation items once you get back to your office or car. When you ride with the same person multiple times, you’ll need to draw upon past conversations to forge a deeper connection that can ultimately lead to business success.
For instance, if you begin by asking about the floor someone works on, during your next ride with that person, you might ask a question about what their company is doing that day. By remembering the people you’ve already met, you’ll be able to continue the conversation over time and soon the stranger will evolve into a connection.
3. Have your business card handy.
Any good business person will have a business card ready at all times. The elevator is no exception. Naturally I’m not suggesting that you pepper every elevator companion with a card the moment they enter the space but should the opportunity arise, you’ll be happy you were prepared.
4. Take it outside.
In many cases, elevator networking can be expanded to include parking lot networking, lobby networking, you name it.
After making an elevator connection, often you’ll find that people are happy to parking garages to continue interesting conversations. It is in these conversations that business referrals or insights are likely to be shared.
As business owners and other professionals continue to perfect their elevator networking skills, they will find that the old adage remains true today: Business is about people. And the more people connect, the better your business can be.