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Get your Elevator Pitch Ready

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Some people always talk about what they’re doing and what their plans are for their business. They talk about their work at the pub, at family gatherings, at rugby practice, even after the service at church. They’re always looking for the next deal, the next step up the ladder, the next opening, the new contacts.

If you were at a hotel for a conference, say, and you happened to get into the same elevator as your dream boss or client, do you think you could convince them to arrange a meeting in the time it took for one of you to reach your floor?

This is essentially your “elevator pitch,” the informative, persuasive and – most importantly – short speech that every entrepreneur and employee should have available in case an unexpected opportunity presents itself. Generally taking no more than 90 seconds, it is your chance to give as much pertinent information as possible within a limited space of time.

It isn’t enough, however, to babble incoherently at your target as you travel between floors. Your elevator pitch, while appearing to be a spontaneous burst of self-marketing, is actually a well-honed performance that has to be crafted and practised.

First, you need to know what you are going to say. The information you need to get across is simple: who you are, what you do and what you can offer your target. Prepare for this by writing down all the details that you believe you target needs to know. Then cut it down to the essentials. They don’t need to know your exact qualifications, what your turnover was last year or how many of your generated leads converted into sales; that can wait until the follow-up meeting. What they need to know right now is why they should be interested in meeting with you and how to contact you.

If you examine all of your achievements so far, you may notice that you have strengths in particular areas. Highlight these, and show how they chime with the objectives of your target. Again, you don’t need to go into tortuous detail, but dropping a line that shows off your best assets is perfectly acceptable. Don’t use technical jargon or management speak, though; it makes you look like an arrogant, pompous windbag.

Before you try your elevator pitch on live test subjects, use yourself as a guinea pig. Type up what you’re going to say and read it back (aloud) to yourself. Keep the tone friendly and upbeat. Don’t rush, speak at your normal rate and don’t use your “formal” voice; this is not an interview, after all. Does it come to more than 400 words? It’s too long. Can you finish it – without speeding up – in 90 seconds or less? If not, it’s too long. If it is the right length, would you call you to arrange a meeting if you had just heard that? If not, you need to do a rewrite.

Just to make things that little bit more difficult, this “off the cuff” mini-presentation should actually be tailored to the audience you have. You wouldn’t send the same CV to a management consultancy as to an advertising agency; nor should you use the same pitch on a prospective boss as you would on a prospective client. So your elevator pitch is going to need different “flavours” depending on who you might be speaking to.

This may seem like an awful lot of work for less than two minute’s of speech, but like the Boy Scouts, it is always best to be prepared. Opportunity knocks on the strangest of doors, and the last thing you want is to run into what seems like the chance of a lifetime, only to have nothing to say.

[Image by Trint]


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