Traditionally, an elevator pitch is a quick summary of a business idea or project plan that you would convey to a potential investor in an attempt to gain their support. It’s called an elevator pitch because you should be able to go through your entire speech in the time it takes to travel from the top floor to the ground floor in an elevator.
In practice, an elevator pitch can accomplish a lot more if you think of it as a tool in your networking toolbox. If you’re successful at developing yours and use it strategically, it can work for you to make networking more successful at generating new leads, developing relationships and advancing your career.
Why bother with an elevator pitch?
I’m sure you have heard the saying, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” That’s true, and equally true is that we often don’t consider the first impression until it’s too late. An elevator pitch can help you make the most of every first impression, while making networking situations easier and more productive.
Do you ever feel a little tongue-tied when telling others what you do, or just uncomfortable talking about yourself? An elevator pitch gives you a ready-to-go introduction, which can take a lot of the stress out of networking. Plus, when you have a well-practiced elevator pitch, you may present yourself as more confident and self-assured, making others more willing trust you and consider you a worthwhile acquaintance.
The process of creating an elevator pitch is an exercise in focus and self-analysis. Even if you use it infrequently, developing it can make you think about who you are, what you do, and what you want others to know about you in the simplest of terms. This can be an opportunity to look back at your accomplishments and ahead to your goals, keeping you centered on what you’re trying to achieve by networking in the first place.
What should I say in my elevator pitch?
The goal of creating an elevator pitch is to craft a statement that explains to someone — without any experience in your industry — what you do, how you do it, and who you do it for. It should be straightforward and easy to understand and digest.
Here is a really simple formula you can use as a basis for a powerful elevator pitch:
- Part I: Ask the other person a question that identifies a common problem. This engages them and gives you a lead-in to Part II.
- Part II: Give a boiled down version of what you do and how it solves the problem you identified in Part I.
- Part III: Provide a call to action that specifically tells the other person what you want them to do now.
An example of what an elevator pitch might sound like:
Have you ever tried to find contact information for someone at a company you’re doing business with, but was unable to because their website was very confusing and disorganized? Well, what I do is redesign websites for small businesses that need a stronger, more coherent online presence. By learning as much as I can about the company, I create a strategic plan for reinventing an existing website to be more functional and user-friendly. Do you know of any small businesses that may need a website reinvention? Here’s my card…
There are many ways to create an elevator pitch (see the links listed at the end of the post for resources). Whatever format you use, the most important part of an elevator pitch is making sure you know it really well. The more you practice it, the more natural it will be and the more effective it will be at generating new opportunities…and making you more successful at networking.
What’s your elevator pitch?
Elevator Pitch Essentials, by Chris O’Leary
The Perfect (Elevator) Pitch, by Aileen Pincus for Business Week
Perfecting Your Pitch, Part One: Assume Short Buildings, by John Hoult for Fast Company
Image credit: silverrake