By Jared C. Hooks, PhD, Science Communicator
SDEE and LaunchBio welcomed Kelly C. Huang to give a primer on networking and pitch-crafting for entrepreneurs on Thursday, January 25, 2018 at Genesis at Campus Point. Kelly is a corporate learning facilitator at HBS Publishing and teaches classes in leadership at the UCSD extension facility. She broadly covered three main areas of focus for establishing a network as a new entrepreneur: your pitch, personal branding, and strategic networking. I’ll give you the quick and dirty for each, but it benefits everyone from the budding startup socialite to the introverted innovator to take some time to brush up on networking skills and identify areas of improvement for yourself.
It’s probably best to start with working on your pitch before most other aspects of entrepreneurial networking. The main reason for this being you will constantly use your pitch, it represents your vision in a condensed form, and you should take time to really practice and refine it. In her talk, Kelly briefly touched on some tips for crafting an elevator pitch which is usually 30 seconds or less, but you should also take time to write different length pitches. In the opening, you really want to make your pitch stick in a person’s mind, and not in that oh-so-terrible way. To hook your listener, Kelly uses the acronym SAME, stories, analogies, metaphors, and examples. Give your listener something that can draw an instant picture or connection to so that it moves you away from the abstract. For the meat of your pitch, what is your unique selling proposition? What is your product, how does it fit into the current marketplace, and what is your strategy for making a profit? To close your pitch, leave the listener with an overall goal or key takeaway. This could be a tagline or future trademark phrase.
With a pitch in place, you can be ready for any opportunity while still giving yourself time practice and polish other networking necessities. One of these is your personal brand, which as Kelly says is something you already have. Think about how you colleagues would describe you and be sure to include both flattery and faults. From there, consider how to further your image towards a brand that people want to associate themselves with. Kelly lists the essence of a strong personal brand as excellence, trust, and visibility. I believe the first two are rather self-explanatory, but that visibility can be key. Your company, ideas, and personality could be the greatest ever, but serve no one hidden in solitude. So, make sure to put yourself out there by participating in events *cough*SDEE*cough, getting goodwill through word-of-mouth referrals, and any other opportunity that allows you increased visibility.
Now to utilize all this to create a strategic network to further your entrepreneurial aspirations. A strategic network revolves around your business and what players you will need to make progress. This involves identifying those who would help with key business priorities, challenges, and generally have something to offer in return for seeing your new business do well. Depending on where you’re at professionally, these types of connections might fall into your lap or require a good amount of leg work. Regardless of the ease you have in finding these important members, Kelly leaves us with some good advice in nurturing your network. Engage with your contacts on a personal level and not just for professional gains. I think this really encapsulates all networking interactions and ties back into your personal brand. You usually want people to see you as approachable, friendly, and helpful so don’t just take, but remember to give back where you can.
Networking takes time, but Kelly gives us some great starting points. It was a pleasure to have here come out and speak.