They used to call it the elevator pitch. This came from the idea of finding yourself in an elevator with the vice-president of a company that you wanted to sell you wares to. And of course the elevator in question was going to the 42nd floor. So you had two minutes, and you had to be prepared to be able to pitch yourself in those two minutes flat.
A lot of things have changed in business since the idea of the elevator pitch: good things for those pitching. These days you don’t have to be in an elevator to get an audience with the key stakeholders who you want to reach out to. Hierarchies have become flatter, and it is easier to get to talk to people. And more than just connecting to a particular individual, the world of social media has brought about a revolution in opportunities for you to reach an even wider audience.
So why does the art of making an elevator pitch often leave people challenged and tongue-tied? Well it’s just not easy to deliver your core message in a concise and inspiring manner, one that will leave people wanting to know more about you and your product, service or idea. It is too easy to get bogged down in detail, use too much jargon, talk too long and focus on our own achievements rather than elicit what your prospective customer wants and needs. And it doesn’t just flow out at will. You need to prepare.
I recently came across an excellent suggestion for creating your elevator pitch from Brian Walter (www.extrememeetings.com) He calls it the WOW, HOW, NOW approach.
WOW! Have an opening line where you say something impressive enough to make the other person want to hear more. It can be humorous, intriguing, puzzling – but it has to be something you are comfortable and confident about saying. Ideally it should be a creative summary of what you do that will make your counterpart ask for some more clarification. For example my one liner when people ask me the question ‘what do you do?’ is “I make people happy at work.”
HOW! It’s time to clarify, and because of the WOW, your counterpart is really curious to find out more. So in my case I might follow up by saying: “I’m a consultant and trainer for organizations who want to improve motivation and retention issues. A lot of my work is focused on management development.”
NOW. This is where you tell your story and give a concrete example of whatever you are currently working on. This is where I would say something like: “ For example, I’ve just finished a project with a call-center where morale was low and turnover was high. Together, we created a series of vision mission & values workshops that involved everyone. We’ve already been able to measure the results against rising morale and lower turnover.
Not only do I find this an easy and succinct way to make a pitch, I have also used it to Tweet the pitch. Quite simply you can send out a WOW Tweet to get people curious. Depending on your audience, you can decide what time gap you will leave before the HOW Tweet. For the NOW Tweet I suggest you make a link to your Website, blog or wherever you best describe what you are currently doing.
Remember that the goal of the pitch is not to get a direct sale, rather it is to awaken enough interest in your counterpart that they will want to know more. Once this happens you know you have been successful.
Margaret Treanor April 3, 2013
Originally from Ireland, Margaret currently lives in Germany and works across Europe as a consultant & trainer in the area of communication skills and management development.