Early in the second year of owning my own company, I traveled out of state to attend an awards event for the sole purpose of networking. Glammed up in an amazing white satin gown, I put on my game face, and bravely entered Atlanta’s swanky Fox Theatre.
Bob Goff, author of the amazing book Love Does, was giving the keynote speech. I’d read his book twice straight through, and I wanted to meet Bob so badly that I was willing to travel and attend this gala in order to do so.
Most of all, I wanted to tell him about a passion project of mine — preserving the stories of aging humanitarian heroes from the 1940s-1970s through film.
The evening went okay, as formal events go. Without a +1, I was seated at a table all the way in the back, with several young interns who giggled and chatted together. It’s challenging to break into a crowd when you have no previous contacts and no wingman.
After his keynote speech, Bob Goff began mingling and I made a beeline toward the queue of people who were equally eager to make his acquaintance.
When my turn came, he shook my hand and cheerfully asked me about myself. Knowing I had only a few moments, I opened by mentioning a mutual friend, then launched directly into my pitch.
He listened politely, and then asked: “So what can I do for you?”
I wasn’t expecting that.
And obviously I didn’t cover my confusion very well.
He clarified his question again: “Sounds like a great project. What exactly do you want from me?”
And that’s where my pitch imploded on itself. I had no idea what exact single action or response I wanted from Bob Goff. I’d thoroughly rehearsed my passion, my project, my purpose — but I’d never fully articulated my proposal.
I stumbled through a few sentences on how I have the crew and the stories and the experience but not the budget. But it was obvious I’d lost his interest. I thanked him for his time, shook hands, and slunk away.
Just thinking about that night makes me cringe a bit inside. The moment I got to meet Bob Goff and totally screwed up. It was far from the confident, collected impression I’d wanted to make.
An effective pitch needs to be planned (and practiced!) all the way through, so you can execute it on the spot, whether or not you’re out of your element, whether or not you’re starstruck.
Looking back, I should have said something like:
“I’m so glad you asked, Bob! Because of your own humanitarian work, I know this is a passion you share in a big way, and I’d like to talk with you more about it. Would you meet me for an early breakfast tomorrow before you leave town, so I can explain our vision?”
The next morning, after sharing more details about the mission, purpose and business plan of my project, I’d have said something like:
“I have followed your work in Uganda and I know there are people in your network who share this passion too. I want you to partner with us to inspire a new generation of young people to live for the betterment of others. And I’d like you to connect me with people in your network who have a passion to give back by funding this project, so they can also be partners in educating young people about real life heroes who served under extraordinary circumstances to make the world a better place.
“Would you consider being an ambassador for our project?”
And then I should have sat back, shut up, and waited for him to answer.
But I didn’t. Instead, my story imploded on itself. Because I wasn’t fully prepared. And even more so, because I was afraid.
I feared the risk of going all out and making my big ask. I was terrified he might say no, and so I let the opportunity crash at my feet.
When you have a chance to meet someone who could make an impact on your project and you can take the time to plan ahead, do your research.
Research what their expertise can bring, so you tap into their passion as well.
Until you get that next amazing chance, take some time to review your pitch and make sure all four P’s are ready to go.
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