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Winning the boxing game
When you meet someone for the ﬁrst time, you will spend your ﬁrst few minutes forming an initial opinion of the person.
Does the person capture your interest in some way?
Does the person provide a clear and compelling elevator pitch?
Often, people have less than two minutes to say something memorable before they are boxed.
Let’s follow Jack and Janet, two knowledge workers attending an industry conference. Jack and Janet meet each other at the event’s networking session. While they’re standing in line for the hors d’oeuvre table, Jack and Janet start talking. They smile, shake hands, and introduce themselves. Jack explains who he is and what he does for a living, and then Janet does the same.
Jack introduces himself ﬁrst. Janet listens for keywords—such as Software Engineer, Technical Architect, Project Manager, or Senior Consultant—terms that identify Jack’s role and make it easier for her to remember him. Jack introduces himself as a Software Engineer from Santa Clara, California. Janet cues in on “Software Engineer” and creates this mental tagline for him. Janet has “boxed” Jack.
When it’s Janet’s turn to introduce herself, Jack will try to “box” Janet. However, Janet knows how to distinguish herself. When Jack asks what Janet does, she conﬁdently smiles and quickly tells how last week her client called her a “Senior Peace-of-Mind Consultant and Career Accelerator.” Last quarter, the client’s implementation project went so smoothly that the Client was able to sleep peacefully at night. Her client had even received a promotion because the project had gone so successful. In just two minutes, Janet skillfully tells a story that reveals her passion, skills, and clever sense of humor.
By the time Janet and Jack ﬁll their plates with hors d’oeuvres, both of them will have been through two quick “boxing” rounds with each other. Let’s not blame either Jack or Janet. We all use this boxing technique to some degree. When we meet people, we need simple ways to remember them and describe them to others.
The next day at the conference, Janet sees her friend, Paul, at an early-morning panel session. After these two long-time friends catch up with each other’s lives, Paul asks, “Have you met anyone interesting here so far?” Janet replies, “Well, I met Jack, a software engineer from Santa Clara last night.” That’s all that Janet says about him. She doesn’t want to repeat Jack’s whole spiel, and Paul really won’t be interested in him. The conversation between Janet and Paul quickly moves on to other topics. Jack has missed an opportunity.
When Jack sees his boss after the conference, he retells one of Janet’s stories—how she transformed a client’s crisis into a resounding success. Jack’s boss recognizes talent behind the story and asks, “Did you get Janet’s card? I’d love to meet her.”
In competitive boxing, there can only be one winner. However, whenever two people meet, they can both diﬀerentiate themselves and have successful boxing rounds. Jack needs a compelling elevator pitch—something that will be memorable and remarkable.
But really, Jack needs more than just communication skills. Jack needs to develop his personal brand. When Jack can present himself, his experience, and his capabilities in a compelling way, people won’t place him into unremarkable boxes. Instead, people will want to know more about Jack, and they will also tell their friends about him.
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