Monday, September 17, 2007

On The Spot: The Allusive Elevator Pitch

How many times have you heard someone tell you that you need to perfect your elevator pitch? I'll never forget my first job out of school - I was working at an IT consultancy in October 2000 and they dropped me off at the Valley Forge Convention Center to work a trade show two months into working there. One the one hand, I was happy for the experience (to learn about the industry), to see the fruits of my labor (I set up that 10x10 booth and wrapped those candy bars with homemade labels) and to collect tons of fun trade show toys (like little bouncy light up balls). On the other hand, what did I know about IT consulting? About portals? About our clients? Nothing. I stood in the booth, panicked, and asked my HR recruiter for the elevator pitch. It's my worst nightmare to go anywhere unprepared and conferences and shows can be the most intimidating - booth visitors putting the cute little cheerleader on the spot - just because they can. I'll be your cheerleader. But I'll be smart as a whip.

Perfecting your pitch is tough. Sometimes it takes years. I believe this is a combination of knowing our products and services, how they work, how they benefit our clients, self confidence, and an ever changing landscape of our businesses. It isn't just about saying what we do as a business or independent professional. It's about engaging our listener - showing instead of telling, keeping things simple, but still telling a story. Because after all, elevators are small cramped awkward spaces - like so many initial encounters.

Up until this point, no one could even offer me a starting point on how to craft the allusive pitch. Tons of articles in INC, Harvard Business Review and other publications tout its importance, but never have I come across a writer who says This Is How You Do It. These are respected journals - why can't I find what I need? What's useful to me as a small business owner? Stop talking about what it is and why it's important and show me how! My prayer was answered. I came across this Elevator Pitch How To article posted on the American Management Association's Leaders Edge and for once someone drills the elevator pitch down to its basics and shares some useful tips and real examples of how to develop and fine tune it. Mark Wiscup, I thank you for making something that's so daunting and unattainable a realistic, challenging but reachable goal.

I'll be working on mine this week and I'll post it here with little annotations so we can see how closely I followed his tutorial.

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