With the NSCA and AFCA National Conference right around the corner, I had time to reflect back on my first experience going to them. My first national conference as a young coach was both thrilling and terrifying. Thrilling because there was so much information being given, terrifying because I was there by myself and it seemed like everyone knew each other but me.
I tried hard to blend in and get to know coaches but it was difficult. I went to a small NAIA school that did not have a strength coach, so I knew no one. I often found myself standing by myself or on the outside of a crowd trying to introduce myself. What I found most useful was working the elevators. What you learn when you are a new coach is that getting any time alone with another coach is useful networking. A very common phrase in the sales industry is an “Elevator Pitch”. This is a 2-5 minute summary of what you have to sell. Most of the time in the sales industry thats all you get. In the strength and conditioning profession your product is “you”, you have to be able to sell yourself or generate a lead in those same 2-5 minutes. It may be all you get. Here are three things to include for your “Elevator Pitch”:
- Introduction – Every one is someone. Just because they are not the Head Strength Coach at So and So University doesn’t mean that they cannot be beneficial to you. Vendors, Assistant S&C’s, Interns, etc all know people who know people. You never know who may help you with your next job. Make it a point to give everyone you encounter a very warm and receptive introduction. Find out who they are and where they are from. Let them know who you are and where you are from. Sounds simple I know, but I have been both the person standing there not being able to get that out as well as the one standing their as someone painfully tries to give that information.
- Feed Their Ego or Identify Common Ground – All strength coaches have a ego, they may not admit it, but you can’t not have one in this business. A little flattery goes a long way. “Hey coach great bowl win!” or “I really enjoyed reading your article” you get the point. Don’t play the “Who you know” game. Rather if you do have something that you can both draw on bring it up. For example if you are both from Missouri, or both interned at the same school bring it up. You never know what will register with someone. Move past it quickly though.
- Set Up a Future Encounter – Don’t go for the whole enchilada. Just because you got them trapped doesn’t mean it is the time to tell them how great you are, and to find out about every possible opening they may have. Try to get one nugget from them and then set up a future encounter. For example “Coach what was the single best piece of advice you got when you were in my shoes?”. What book are you reading right now? Once you get your answer, try to set up a future encounter. “Coach, if you don’t mind can I grab you later on at the conference and ask you a few more questions, or would you mind if I call or visit you sometime at the University?”. I have yet to have a coach deny my request. One piece of advice though have some questions handy, because they may have time right then.
I still use the “Elevator Pitch”. The longer I have been in this profession the more I have learned to value a strong network. If you catch me in a Elevator this week make sure to say hello. Post any additional advice or your own horror stories below.