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Last week, I attended the 2024 Technology of Participation (ToP) Gathering. This is an event designed to "gather" ToP Network members and practitioners of ToP facilitation methods for three days of workshops, plenaries, and networking -- a place to “…experience ToP facilitation methods in action.” And, for the first time since 2019, we were in person. So perhaps I was a little rusty when the person on the elevator, who had presumably been seeing all our lanyards running around, asked “so what is ToP anyway?”
As I finished saying something about what ToP stands for and that it’s a “set of facilitation methods designed to enhance group collaboration and decision-making, that emphasizes inclusive participation”, I found myself saying “hey! Look at that….an actual elevator pitch.” To which they responded, “That’s why we practice those, right?”
Having an elevator pitch for my job is something I’ve intentionally worked on. After all, briefly explaining Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging is no small task. But it’s equally important to have one for my professional networks. In today's interconnected world, a well-crafted elevator pitch about the organizations you are a part of can expand your networking opportunities, whether at industry events, on social media, or in online forums. Don’t get me wrong, I’m used to explaining what ToP is. But it’s been a minute since I’ve done it traveling from the 14th floor to the lobby.
Networking is about forming meaningful connections, not just collecting contacts. Since in-person events provide an increased opportunity for chance encounters, an elevator pitch about what your professional network does, can be a great opportunity to articulate your goals, certifications, and skillsets, beyond your job. Creative networking strategies like these increase the likelihood of identifying potential collaboration opportunities, partnerships, or connections that may not have been apparent otherwise. What if instead of saying “That’s why we practice those, right?” the person on the elevator had said “My colleague is interested in facilitation. Can I give them your contact information?” And what if that colleague worked for an organization, you’d been trying to connect with? Talking to them only about my job wouldn’t necessarily have helped in that situation.
Something to keep in mind when describing your professional organization to those outside your industry, is that simplicity and relevance are key. Start by providing a brief overview of what your organization does in clear and accessible language, avoiding technical jargon that may be unfamiliar to the people you’re in conversation with. Highlight the impact or outcomes of your organization's work in broader terms, focusing on how it contributes to something relevant to wider audiences and be sure to use relatable examples or analogies. Finally, be open to questions and engage in a dialogue to further clarify any points of confusion and foster understanding. And if you try this on, let us know how it went.