Duck or You Could Be Hit by an Elevator Pitch
On my way to the funnies in the Boston Globe the other day, an article on elevator pitches caught my eye. The sub-head in particular: "Amidst the sound of bad music, here's how to give your best two-minute elevator pitch."
Two-minute elevator pitch? That's a stuck in the elevator pitch. That's a monologue.
Personally, I don't remember ever being impressed by anyone's elevator pitch. Maybe I've never even heard one. Maybe nobody I've ever met in an elevator deemed me worthy of his or her two-minute elevator pitch.
But according to this little article, Mark Wiskup, author of "The It Factor," believes that "a great elevator pitch runs longer than five sentences and should 'impress the listener with its intensity.'"
I'm sure if I were the recipient of an elevator pitch of two-minute, five sentence length, I wouldn't be particularly impressed by its intensity. I'd be thinking, please, stop and take a breath. Or, please, stop and ask me a question about myself. (Or at least let me ask a question about you.)
I realize that so many of us have jobs that are difficult to explain, working for companies that nobody understands, and that all of this may necessitate a longer spiel. Maybe there's some universe in which Mr. Big asks the bright young feller in the elevator to give his. ("Son, I'd love to hear your elevator pitch.") Maybe it's a good idea to have a handy, dandy definition of what you and your company do, just in case somebody asks. (Okay, I'll admit that it's a good idea.)
Yet the thought of actually listening to an elevator pitch leaves me numb.
I've written my share of them over the years, mostly as a way of forcing myself or the folks I'm working with to come up with a sentence or two that in simple, crisp terms explains what exactly is it that our product and/or company does. (It's a great exercise, by the way.)
And, although I tend to ignore this bit of advice, I've been hearing for years that nobody wants to hear about the products or features, they want to hear about the clients and benefits - and this is supposedly true for your personal elevator pitch, too. But, let's face it, don't all benefits boil down to make money, save money, save time, improve productivity, improve quality? At least they pretty much do in the tech B2B circles I float around in.
So, if I'm in an elevator, what's going to be more informative to me:
"I sell gizmos for Acme Inc., and we help our clients save time and money."
"I sell gizmos for Acme Inc. Our gizmos are those little green things that connect the pillar to the post."
I know I'm an oddball, but I want to hear the latter, not the former. ("Oh, those gizmos. I know you guys.")
But back to that two-minute elevator pitch.
Two-minutes might be fine at a presentation, but ain't nobody wants to hear the other guy talk for two-minutes unless the story they're telling is really interesting. Which would, I suspect, preclude most elevator pitches.
Forget about elevator pitch. How about elevator catch?
You pitch, the other guy catches and throws the ball back. And so it goes. Each person gets a chance to pitch and catch. Isn't that more interesting than just watching the other guy toss their own ball repeatedly up in the air?
This is called a conversation, and it can go in any number of ways.
I guess it just comes down to the fact that I'm much more likely to be impressed by someone who can carry on an intelligent conversation, and who has the EQ to involve the other person in that conversation, than I am by someone who's an intense monologist. Even when I'm the one asking most of the questions, and moving the conversation along, I still like to occasionally see a glimmer of recognition in the other person's eye that I'm an also a human being who might have something interesting to say.
Then again, I'm not some captain of industry who anyone'd want to elevator pitch to.
Wiskup does offer some good advice about including in your elevator pitch a very concrete example about a problem that you helped a customer solve. This could, actually, be the key to an interesting and effective elevator pitch - one that I'd want to listen to.
Mostly I'd rather have a real, however brief, conversation with someone. Or just stand there like a glom and listen to the Muzak.
I like to provide links to articles I source, but I just did a quick google and couldn't find this one. It was in a Boston Globe special business-section sometime in late August.