Last night, I attended a NYC VIP shopping event for a store opening. The event was sponsored by a reputable magazine and the magazine’s style editor was in attendance. I went, armed with a purpose. Pitch startup idea, make an impression, smile and conquer.
<<< I also shopped a lot. Though in retrospect, I wouldn’t suggest pitching while wearing green pants. People may not take you seriously.
Easy in theory. Here was the reality:
1. Unless you personally know the owner, an event is never as “exclusive” as you think. I arrived 15 minutes after opening and the store was packed. With doors wide open, people were pouring in because…everyone was invited! Receiving a forwarded email from a fashion friend with the word VIP in fancy font had fooled me into believing that this was an actual exclusive high-brow event. Apparently I’m naive enough to believe everything I read. Reality check #1.
2. Upon finding my target, I froze. What was I actually going to say? I had rehearsed the pitch a million times only to realize that you can’t just go up to someone and begin pitching. To be a smooth criminal, you must determine how to start a conversation with someone who has far more better things to do than talk to you. Reality check #2.
3. Once you finally begin to pitch, everything that’s been rehearsed goes unrehearsed. Words sputter and things you swore you’d never say come out. Rambling commences. The perfect elevator pitch is not what you need because the circumstances for a standalone elevator pitch to thrive don’t exist. Instead, proper cushioning and social grace are more effective. Reality check #3.
4. Leaving with 3 new business cards, I’m quite satisfied. Only to realize later that I’ve lost them! Alas, I remember their names! A simple search reveals all the necessary contact information…and Google saves the day! So wait, was all that networking anxiety even necessary?
In summary: if you’re a startup or someone trying to win hearts and minds, note the following:
1. Your pitch doesn’t matter. Context does.
2. What is advertised is not what you get, usually.
3. Brevity, transitions, and cushioning are gold.
4. Contacts, shmontacs. Schmoozing doesn’t work. Be genuine and people will respond. (Dressing well helps a little too.)
5. Try hard, but not too hard. Nothing is ever worth the anxiety.