The Art of the Elevator Pitch
“A police chief, with a phobia for open water, battles a gigantic shark with an appetite for swimmers and boat captains, in spite of a greedy town council who demands that the beach stay open.”
Long before “Jaws” hit the theaters, the screenwriters had to perfect their pitch – the one- or two-sentence logline explaining what the movie was about. Any longer of a pitch and they risked losing the attention of the movie execs they were trying so desperately to persuade to make the movie.
The logline is not all that different from a personal elevator pitch – and everyone needs a personal elevator pitch. Whether you’re in a new business meeting, a networking event or simply meeting someone new at a barbecue, you need a way to succinctly and effectively describe who you are and what you do – your unique value proposition. You’re telling the most important story you have to tell: your own.
The elevator pitch consists of two important elements:
- • Content: How you define who you are and what you do, for whom.
- • Delivery: How you effectively articulate your personal brand.
A strong elevator pitch has multiple components: an opening that gets your audience’s attention; a brief overview of your experience or skills; the specific benefit your experience or skills provides; and a goal – what do you want the listener to do or think next (and no, it’s not to buy your product or service)?
Perhaps most importantly, the elevator pitch is tailored to the person you’re talking to, and the situation you’re in. The detail you provide when meeting a new client will be far different than that you provide when meeting someone, quite literally, in an elevator.
You need to pay close attention to your audience: Match the personal cues of your listener, be in sync with them. Make eye contact and smile, and avoid closing yourself off with your body language – by crossing your arms in front of your body, for example.
Putting it All Together
The biggest problem most people have with their elevator pitch? Not having one prepared.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of your elevator pitch will come down to practice. At a recent lecture hosted by the Portland-based nonprofit Women’s Center for Leadership, public speaking coach Gigi Rosenberg offered up tips to turn practice into perfect. Among them were to ask a friend or colleague for help: “I’m working on my elevator speech. Can I practice on you?” But don’t ask your listener whether your pitch was good or bad, Rosenberg counsels. Instead, ask them to offer specific feedback to these questions:
- • Where was the elevator speech clear?
- • Was there any place you were confused?
- • What do you remember?
Finally, be true to yourself.
“The number one rule with any communication is to be authentic,” Tim David wrote in Harvard Business Review. “Unless you make [your elevator pitch] fit your personality, it will come across as phony and manipulative. And nothing ruins a pitch faster.”