The Coffee Shop Pitch

I often find myself working in a public setting like a coffee shop or my local library. I find these places really stimulating and removing myself from the comfortable distractions of my home seems to help me stay on track.

I recently found myself sharing a table with a friend of mine at Brewed Awakening, a Berkeley coffee shop popular with local university students. While working through my emails, I commented to my friend across the table about the difficulties of educating my community on the beast that is digital copyright law.

The woman at the table next to us remarked to me how confusing she found the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), otherwise known as H.R. 3261. We briefly spoke about her experiences with copyright law and the conversation was finished.

Once we’d finished our work for the day, I was packing my bag up my when neighbor requests my attention again. She asks who I work for and what it is that we do. Inside, I freeze: I’ve never done even an elevator pitch for this company! I immediately launch into what we do, how we do it, why we’re the best and even drill down into how we might be of value to her specifically. Once I’d answered her questions the gentleman sitting behind me asked the company’s name and a few other questions as well.

To make a long story short, I ended up giving an impromptu presentation for my employer to two strangers and hopefully gained us new users. All in all, it went really well. Both people seemed impressed by both the site and the quality of information I was able to give them. Afterwards, I realized there’s a few things I could have done better. Here’s what I learned from my experience.

1. Try to know the product inside out or where more information is available

The woman I was speaking to worked for a non-profit. The company that I was pitching works very closely with charities. However, I don’t deal with this part of the business and have only discussed it with my supervisor in passing. There were questions that I didn’t know the answer to but I did my best to give her explicit directions so she could find out more about that aspect of our business.

2. Carry business cards, even if they’re only personal ones

My contract with this employer doesn’t provide for cards. When the gentleman behind me asked for my name and card, there was something that felt very unprofessional about dictating the site name to him so he could write it down.

If I’d had a personal card, I could have averted this.

This experience taught me that if I’m going to work in public, I need to be ready to talk about what I’m doing and to be ready to answer rather specific questions about the services my employer can offer. And to go easy on the caffeine! Jittery, fast talkers often need to slow it down and may be asked to repeat themselves, as I was.

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