If your elevator pitch is like most, it’s actually repelling people who could become friends, customers, or colleagues.

Earlier this month, I went to a private dinner/event hosted by a friend who is a best-selling author. Twenty people from various industries attended.

After some initial mingling, each person had to describe themselves to the group in 30-60 seconds. Then, we had dinner. To end the night, each person went around the room again to share an idea or resource with the group.

It was fascinating to watch and participate in this process. I created 4 “avatars” for people who stood out to me during this experience, along with key takeaways from observing everyone:

1. “Self-Absorbed Sally/Stanley:” One woman missed the majority of the event because she showed up over one hour late. During the 2nd round of introductions, she started off by saying how busy she is because she runs two businesses. While it drives me crazy when people say how busy they are (note: everyone is busy, so don’t whine about how “busy” you are!), the bigger issue was her behavior when everyone else was speaking. She scanned through her cell phone during everyone else’s time, apparently checking and replying to emails or text messages. I don’t care how busy you think you are. When other people are talking, you should be listening… especially if you showed up more than one hour late. If you are too busy to give people your undivided attention, then don’t show up in the first place.

2. “Rambling Ron/Rhonda:” Before the dinner, the event organizer sent everyone an email with a gentle warning that each person would have 40-60 seconds to introduce himself at the event. She reiterated this at the event itself , and she even had a colleague with a stopwatch to time each person. Despite all of these polite ways to tell people to be concise, almost half of the room still needed a warning to stop talking… and, most of the people in the room were trainers or speakers (i.e. people who should have a very strong command of communicating concisely!) There was one person who must have gone on for at least 3-4 minutes, despite several cues from the person with the stopwatch that time was up. Even worse, after speaking for 4+ minutes, I still had no clue what he did for work. At one point his convoluted monologue, he took his phone out of his pocket to show the group an “interesting” picture he had taken recently. during Then, he took out one of his poems (note: he was not a professional writer or poet) so that he could read it to the group. It’s not clear what the point of the poem was. The longer you talk, the more likely people will be confused or turned off. Be concise. If you can’t explain what you do (i.e. who you help and how you help them) in 10 words or less, then you need to get more clear on what you do.

3. “Conceited Connor/Connie:” One person in the group stuck to her allotted 60 seconds. However, she spoke 100 mph in order to highlight every professional achievement from her life. She rattled off the complete name for each of her 4 books. She dropped the names of 5 “major” clients she had worked with, and she also felt it necessary to tell everyone her life motto, some cheesy catch-phrase that had something to do with being your best. Yuck. I ‘m surprised she didn’t pass around a copy of her paycheck. There is no faster way to turn people off than to brag about how great you are or to lecture people you just met on how they should live their lives.

4. “Humble Harry/Harriett:” The introductions were not all bad, however… One person in the group started his “pitch” by saying that he would rather give up his allotted time to hear more about a prior woman who said she had been an ice canoeing champion. Everyone smiled. Then, he briefly and humbly mentioned that he was a documentary filmmaker and that he loves his job because he gets to spend it with some of the world’s most amazing people in some of the most beautiful places in the world. No bravado. No name-dropping. No “elevator pitch.” No need to ask him to stop rambling. No incoherent poems. Just a regular guy who has humble, self-deprecating, concise, and who clearly had been listening to the other people in the room. Well done.

Out of these 4 people, which person would you have wanted to grab a cup of coffee with or do business with the most? For me, it was a no-brainer. The filmmaker was the first person I sought out during a break…


Pete Leibman is the Founder of Dream Job Academy and the Author of the new book titled “I Got My Dream Job and So Can You” (AMACOM, 2012). His career advice has been featured on Fox, CBS, and CNN, and he is a popular Keynote Speaker at career events for college students and at conferences for people who work with college students.