A Powerful Elevator Speech

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If you are an entrepreneur, you need an elevator speech, sometimes referred to as an elevator pitch. Whether you’re pursuing funding, partners or sales, it’s a must-have in business today.

The concept of an elevator pitch started decades ago when sales professionals found themselves riding in elevators with prospects. It was the perfect opportunity to make a pitch to a very captive audience!

Over the years, it has become a trademark for every business owner, whether in an elevator or online, to be able to deliver a solid but short pitch about their product or service. It may be 15 seconds or 2 minutes, but it must be good enough to grab attention and you must have it memorized. You never know when you will find yourself face-to-face with that one person who can make all the difference in your career.

James S. O’Rourke, a professor of management at the University of Notre Dame, says your first objective is to get them to like you, because “if they don’t like you, they might just take the stairs next time!” He advises that an elevator pitch is not “an opportunity to exploit, use, bore or terrorize someone trapped in an elevator with you.”

When formulating your pitch, it’s a good idea to step outside of yourself and pretend you don’t know anything about your business; you have 30 seconds to craft your message. Make it simple and impressive enough to make the listener ask questions, or, even better, ask for a meeting to discuss doing business with you. If you hear, “Tell me more,” you’ve got a good pitch.

Practice on paper. Read it aloud to yourself and anyone who will listen and give good feedback; that’s not necessarily your spouse or significant other. Try it across different genders and ages, since you want a universally comprehensible pitch. When you think you’re ready, test it with someone in your industry or an expert in communications.

When crafting your pitch, avoid the usual boring business words such as “unique,” “synergistic,” “customer-focused” or “paradigm.” Those are overused and, quite frankly, your listener won’t remember them. You want to humanize your pitch because you’re making a first impression and you want them to like you.

In a nutshell, your pitch must be a clear explanation of what you do and how you are different. If you aren’t sure how many words to use, try 150. It must be straightforward and perfectly targeted and focused. Always have your objective in mind and use words that create a visual effect. That makes it easier to remember. Hook your listener to get the conversation flowing.

First, introduce yourself, then offer your handshake and go for it. After your delivery, try to qualify yourself so the listener feels comfortable that your talents, education and skill set are real. And don’t forget to hand them a business card for further verification. Your body language is as important as your pitch. Show genuine interest and excitement through your facial expressions, your smile and eye contact. This inspires confidence and sincerity.

Nowadays, there are many opportunities to present an elevator pitch. There’s the actual elevator, of course, and the old stand-by telephone calls, and advertisements on television and radio, but technology has brought us further in communications.

Expanded signatures with your website listed under your name, along with a short pitch, can be automatically attached to your emails. Your aim here is to entice the reader to open your website or call you to learn more about your business.
On your website, you can post your pitch in a video, which creates a literal extension of yourself to countless prospects. Again, make it short and powerful, about a minute in length. A video is a perfect tool to actually demonstrate your product or service in a controlled environment. It also allows the viewer to replay it and hopefully share it with other decision-makers.

The proliferation of social media has made it easier to pitch to one person or 1,000. Facebook is used by just about every company in the world now, and each has an elevator pitch on their page. This is great place to mine for ideas on how to devise your perfect pitch. Twitter has become a tool as well. Be sure to put your elevator speech in the Bio field in your Twitter profile. Imagine one day blasting your message to one million Twitter followers! Since Twitter only allows 140 characters with each blast, you are forced to be concise and distinctive here too.

Before you begin writing the perfect elevator speech, remember what the well-known scholar J. B. Phillips said about words: “If words are to enter men’s minds and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped cunningly to pass men’s defenses and explode silently and effectually within their minds.” Plus, let’s amend “men” to “women.” ■

Sources: forbes.com, socialmediatoday.com and youtube.com.