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Have a Message When You Network
by Gilda Bonanno

Once you’ve decided to attend a networking event, an important part of your planning before you attend is to prepare your message.

What is a message?  The one thing that you want to share with people that you're going to meet. 

I prefer the term “message” to the commonly-used phrase “elevator speech,” because message is a little more focused and succinct.

Your message not only includes who are you, but also is customized to the particular situation and focused on what you have to offer in this context.

We're complex people, with a lot of facets to our personalities.  We have our home lives, our work lives, our families, our community, our interests, etc. When you go to an event, you need to be clear about your purpose in attending and what part of your life and background you will share with people at this particular event.

For example, if you're at an event sponsored by an organization you volunteer for, you may be talking about the work you do for that organization.  If you’re at your daughter’s school event, your message may include more about her and your involvement with the school. 

Or, if you are currently in a job, but you're looking for a new job, do you want to share that with people at the networking event? If so, how are you going to say that?  If you just “wing it” in the moment and blurt it out, it may not come out the way you want it to come out. It may sound very negative or unflattering about your current company. 

You also need to customize your message for the kind of people you’re likely to meet.  For example, if I'm going to a networking event where there will be many entrepreneurs, my message when I introduce myself includes the fact that I have my own business. In the course of the conversation, I can certainly discuss other parts of my background, but I start off with something that is relevant and understandable in this context.

The next time you go to a networking event, take some time to prepare and practice your message, so you can communicate relevant information about yourself, customized for this particular audience. Ultimately, having a clear, concise message helps the people you meet understand more about you so you can build a connection.

Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.

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