Debbie Swanson | Freelance Marketing
When was the last time you’d heard that phrase? I hadn’t heard it in years, until a recent assignment for a magazine article led me to sit in on a local networking meeting. As I took my seat, the woman I was sitting next to drew me aside.
“After the general business, each person can stand up and give a 60 second elevator pitch,” she whispered.
I hoped my confident smile hid my panic. The last time I’d even thought about an elevator pitch was back in college. As I listened to the other members, I felt some relief. Some speeches were smart and polished, like the business designer who opened with “Is your brand in black and white? I can provide the color..” but others were completely informal “I’m laid off, I’ve been cleaning out the attic…”
By the time it was my turn I had worked out something better than the attic cleaner’s speech but not as good as the polished designer’s. Happy to have gotten past that, I was left with a nagging sense of unfinished business. I realized that when friends or acquaintances ask me what I do for a living, I don’t take the opportunity to boost my business. I decided to take my ‘elevator pitch’ more seriously.
What is an Elevator Pitch?
While it should be short, it should also be captivating – you don’t want to invoke a blank faced, smile and nod response.
An elevator pitch is a quick synopsis of what services you provide. As you’d guess by it’s name, you should be able to deliver it on short order, i.e. when you find yourself riding the elevator with your dream client. While today’s remote work styles make chance meetings in the elevator less frequent, having a rehearsed answer is still good business.
While it should be short, it should also be captivating – you don’t want to invoke a blank faced, smile and nod response. A good way to grab your audience is with a question or interesting statement: “Did you know that 60% of elementary school kids throw out or trade their lunch? My lunchbox catering business provides lunches that kids won’t want to part with.”
Tips for Developing Great Elevator Pitches
Good pitches also provide a glimpse of your credentials. Trickle in something about a noteworthy client or your background: “When I finished my MBA at Harvard…” or “My work with SuperClientX helped them….”
Envision the type of people you’ll deliver your pitch to, and make sure your wording and language is appropriate for that audience. For example, if you’re the lunchbox caterer, your pitch might be delivered to weary parents at the morning bus stop. If you’ll pitch other professionals, acronyms or industry specific jargon are more acceptable.
You may even keep two or three versions of your pitch. The caterer might have a speech for potential customers, then another for potential business partners such as suppliers or venders.
Once you’ve put something together, practice it. The trick with an elevator pitch is that while it’s planned, it needs to sound spontaneous; not robotic. Practice this by saying your pitch while your in the car or shower, making sure the words are natural and it’s easy to remember.
Like a resume, remember to update your pitch every year or so. Keep your company current: “We tweet our specials out each week, with some giveaways”, mention newer and better clients, or directions for the future.
While the concept may feel dated, the idea of an elevator pitch is still relevant today. What are your standard answers when people ask what you do for a living? Do you draw them out with an interesting response, or brush them off with a quick and hurried answer?
Debbie Swanson is a Boston area freelance writer, custom content consultant, and website/blog content provider. Visit http://www.swansonwriting.com or follow her on twitter @swansonwriting.