Some thoughts on networking events and using an ‘elevator pitch’

By Claire Harmer

Last week I attended an LRG networking event held in central London. The committee has held similar events before but this one had a special focus: creating an elevator pitch. Nathalie Reis, the LRG’s publicity officer, hosted the event and spoke about her experience of using an elevator pitch at various networking events (more details below). Working in groups, we looked at the different elements that should be included in the pitch, which sparked some very interesting conversations! I wanted to share some of the things we talked about and it would be great to hear your thoughts on what you find works well (or not so well!) when meeting new people at a networking event.

I was interested in attending the LRG event as I’d been in several situations before where I felt like an elevator pitch would work really well, such as at trade fairs, networking events, or business gatherings, but I’d never had anything rehearsed to say. I thought that being able to introduce myself in a concise, confident way would be a good skill to have, and that having something already prepared would help me to do just that.

A few things to think about when putting together an elevator pitch:

  • Focus on what will interest your potential client: language combinations, areas of expertise, services offered, etc.
  • Touch on the problems faced by your potential client and explain how what you are offering would help them to solve these problems. The aim of this is to pique their interest so they will ask you more questions afterwards.
  • Include something memorable about yourself. It is likely that the person you are speaking to will meet lots of new people that day (particularly if they are on a stand at a trade fair) so having something memorable in your pitch will make you stand out.

One of the discussions that took place at the LRG event revolved around how far you should go to educate a potential client. The verdict was that if you were meeting them for the first time it was best to answer their questions politely and try to inform them about the profession. Most of us had experienced people saying things like ‘oh, so do you work in a hospital/booth/court room’ at some point in our careers, i.e. mixing up translators and interpreters. With this issue in mind, I added the fact that I help companies with their ‘written documents’ into my elevator pitch. Here is the one I came up with at the event… it’s a work-in-progress!

Hi, my name is Claire and I am a London-based translator specialising in the medical, pharmaceutical and packaging sectors. I work from French and Spanish into English (which is my native language) and work with companies from French and Spanish-speaking countries to transform their written documents into idiomatic, fluent English. By doing this, I help these companies to increase their chances of success in English-speaking countries such as the UK and the US.

We also discussed how to deal with comments like ‘some people in our office speak English, so they take care of the translations’. The consensus was mixed in my group; some stressed that we should inform them of the dangers of this producing an inaccurate translation (particularly when carried out by non-native speakers of the target language!). While myself and a few others thought that if they didn’t know why this would look and sound unprofessional, they probably weren’t the best people to do business with. A few of us mentioned that the ITI translation guide for buyers: ‘Getting it right’ would be useful here, but we weren’t sure when giving it out would be appropriate. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

 

I’ve compiled a list of the general networking events and groups which were mentioned at the LRG event, in case any readers are interested:

Apparently this is ‘the most successful business networking referral organisation in the world’! Members are part of a ‘word of mouth’ programme whereby they can develop relationships with other professionals. They have branches or ‘chapters’, as they call them, all over the world, with each ‘chapter’ allowing just one representative from each trade or professional to join the group, so there is no competition between members. It also means that there is a wide variety of professionals at their events and not 10 accountants at one meeting, for example! The downside is the expense attached (around £400 yearly subscription fee plus registration costs) and it’s a fairly hefty time commitment – most chapters meet on a weekly basis and attendance is mandatory.

  • Chambers of Commerce

www.ccfgb.co.uk (as an example, this is the French Chamber of Great Britain)

People at the LRG event seemed to have varying reviews of COC events. The main point that came up was that most of the other individuals attending the events were in finance, so it wasn’t great for those wishing to network with people from a variety of trades. On the other hand, perhaps it would be a great networking opportunity for financial translators!

London-based networking group, although there are lots of groups like this out there, particularly in and around big cities. Any individual/company can attend two events as a non-member before deciding whether or not to join. The events are fairly low-cost (around £25 for London events) and unstructured, i.e. they don’t follow a fixed agenda, unlike the BNI events. I’m planning on going to one of their events next week. I’ve not been before so I’ll let you know how it goes…. watch this space!

  • Speed networking

Trade fairs and exhibitions often run speed networking sessions alongside them. I recently found out that www.meetup.com has groups specifically for speed networking, but I haven’t managed to get to an event just yet. You often only get 60 seconds to explain your business and introduce yourself; a perfect opportunity for trying out your elevator pitch! Speed networking means that you’ll meet lots of people in a short space of time, and the cost of these events is generally low. Some people argue that 60 seconds isn’t enough time to build a relationship with a potential client, but since people tend to hand their business cards out to each person they meet during the event, they can always contact you later.

If you’ve been to any of these, or any other networking events for that matter, what did you think of them? It would be great to get your feedback!

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The LRG event I attended, held at the Devereux pub in London.

Courtesy of Nada Photography

My first Jelly

by Katharine Mears

A couple of weeks ago I attended my first Jelly; an informal co-working event where freelancers and small business owners can bring their laptops, and work, chat and collaborate with others. The UK Jelly website defines co-working as, “Meeting up with like-minded people to work together in a different environment, to exchange help and advice, and maybe come up with a new idea to collaborate on”. It differs from a networking event in that the primary purpose of a Jelly isn’t to find new clients or promote your business, although of course this often happens indirectly.

The Jelly I attended was held in a local pub in St Albans (which is, conveniently, the city I live in!). It was free to attend, in line with Jelly’s ethos that their events are accessible to all. We had our own room allocated to us so we weren’t disturbed by other customers and we were given free use of the Wi-Fi. The only thing that needed to be paid for was food and drink.

So, how did I find it?

The highlight for me was undoubtedly having the opportunity to meet other local freelancers and getting to know them as we worked. Any co-working I have undertaken in recent years has been solely with other translators, so I did wonder whether there would be as much scope for discussion with freelancers from other fields. I couldn’t have been more wrong! There were around ten people at the Jelly, including the founder of Popdance, an IT consultant, a PA and a children’s outdoor activities coordinator. I was also pleasantly surprised to see another local translator that I had recently met, as well as an old friend I had worked alongside in my previous career in the charity sector. A friendly and chatty atmosphere quickly developed between all of us. There are so many advantages to freelancing from home but this event really made me realise how much I’d missed having colleagues to chat to on a day-to-day basis. It was also clear that some real friendships had developed among those who had been attending for a while.

St Albans Jelly event

It wasn’t only the social aspect and the novelty of getting out of the house that appealed to me. I also found I learned a great deal from others that may prove to be of use to my business. I was introduced to Periscope, a live video streaming app, and we even conducted a live Periscope broadcast from the Jelly! I also found out about an active Facebook page for local businesses in St Albans and about other Jelly and networking events. Tapping into this local knowledge was extremely useful and something that can be hard to come by at translation events.

The only downside to the morning I spent at the event was that I only got about half the amount of work done that I would normally have achieved. I think this was partly because it was the first Jelly I had attended and I was keen to get to know people. There would have been little point in going if I had just tapped away on my laptop all morning without speaking to anyone! Should you decide to go along to a Jelly near you, I would recommend having an admin day rather than taking along a translation you really need to focus on or working to meet a deadline, as it can be difficult to concentrate. That said, perhaps I have just got too used to the silence!

What about you? Do you attend co-working events? Is there anything similar on offer where you live? Let us know in the comments below.

For those interested in a more regular co-working arrangement, take a look at Claire Harmer’s blog post on the subject from back in April.