I was out for dinner with my girlfriend the other night. We were having a quiet night in a nice restaurant and as we were leaving to go to our next destination we ran into an actress I know from some job I did years ago.
She stopped us as we were walking out the door and asked what I’m working on, but before I had even finished answering she cut me off and started pitching me some of her projects.
In my opinion, talking about work in this setting is a no-no. It’s Saturday night and I’m walking out of a nice restaurant holding hands with a girl. Does it look like I’m ready to take a pitch on a show? (I’m not even going to get into the fact that the flavor of the show was the polar opposite of anything I have ever done –this is a “know your audience before you pitch them” note!)
Now, she did start off correctly. I am a firm believer in asking other people about their projects before talking about mine, but, you are supposed to actually listen and care about the answer to your questions AND, it just wasn’t the time to talk shop.
And, in addition to starting off so wrong, she broke a major rule of pitching – she didn’t pay attention to her audience’s reaction. She didn’t listen when I said “we have to go”. She had what she thought was an opportunity and she was taking it for all it was worth!
Wrong wrong wrong.
If you are fortunate enough to run into someone you’d like to pitch to but you’re in a social setting please remember this is not an opportunity to pitch. What you have is an opportunity to show a few things about yourself; you are professional, you have a life and work is not all you think about, you are not desperate, you respect other people’s time, and and and, it is an opportunity to ask to be in touch. That’s it. That’s all. Anything more and you’re ruining an opportunity to act like you belong in the club.
Sidebar: My girlfriend works in television as well, so typically when we have a date night we try not to talk about work, at all, so that only exacerbated this girl’s wrong choice to pitch.
I can already hear some of you asking, “So when do I give the Elevator Pitch I’ve been working so hard on?”
You know when? NOT THEN! During business hours for sure. Or maybe outside regular business hours if the person isn’t engrossed in something obviously non-work related.
Yes the Execs are looking for the next great idea but NOT when they’re on a date. Or skiing. Or if you happen to see me gassing up my motorcycle and want to walk over to say hi. These are not times to pitch.
They ARE times to say hi. They ARE times to ask if you can call for a meeting. “I can see you’re busy relaxing and most likely don’t want to talk about work. Could I call you next week? I have something I think you’d enjoy seeing.” Wicked!!
A lot of this is about showing respect for the person’s time. But also, it is about showing that you belong in the club. You want to show that you don’t need to act desperately, this isn’t your only shot, and this isn’t the only person you can take this to.
People worth pitching to are either busy working, or busy not working, and I personally try not to mix the two.
So bottom line, if you run into someone that you’d like to pitch to, or ask advice from, or just increase the business relationship you have with them, a simple “Hello. Good to see you again. I’m working on something that I think might be a match for the type of work you do. Could I call you next week to arrange a meeting?” will do just fine.
And after that? Get out the hell outta there before you piss off the girlfriend.