Monday, April 02, 2012

Less pitching in the elevator, please

One of the skills that business owners are advised to have is a good elevator pitch. Alas, it's something that is trotted out way too often. A 60-second description of what problem you solve, and who you solve it for, can be useful if you're asked to do a short intro to a group other people at an event. Otherwise, please leave your elevator pitch at home.

I don't know about you, but I've often received the full blast of a one-minute pitch at a networking event when I've asked someone what they do. Unfortunately, after the first fifteen seconds, I'm losing interest. After thirty seconds I'm looking for a way out, and before it's over I'm thinking how I can avoid this person in future.

It' not only boring, it's rude, to expect a person you've never met before to be talked at for a minute or more. That's not a conversation, it's a lack of respect.

It's great to have a short conversation starter, like "I organise prison break-outs" (from someone who helps people to start a business after corporate life) or "I create your own personal oasis of calm" (from a garden designer). They will generate a dialogue, and start to build a relationship.

Elevator pitches are broadcasts, not conversations. Those who deliver them are often so focused on getting their message out that they fail to listen and watch the signals coming back. So please, keep your elevator pitch for the occasions where it is appropriate, and focus on having a conversation instead.


simonr said...

Oh HOWWW I agree with you.

The thing is, it's hard to know what to say to start conversations with when you're facing a total stranger and a rehearsed EP is better than tumbleweed-silence...

People fall back on it because they don't know any better in the same way in my area of expertise people fall back on PowerPoint bullet points because they don't know any better. :(

While I agree with your sentiment, I tend to be (unusually for me) a bit more sympathetic to the other person, particularly if I sense nervs.... ;)

Russell Wardrop said...

I spend much of my life teaching professional services people how to do their elevator pitches, from the Factual to the Shocking: they are enormously useful for those who often say too much in formal pitches.

I also spend a lot of time telling them not to speak about work at all in networking situations. "Pitches" here, elevator or not, should be personal and more about likeability than technical ability.

My experience is that people find it much easier to do the business elevator pitches, but it's the personal ones that resonate and get you past first base.

Long live the elevator pitch, as long as it's memorable and employs as much listening as talking.

Russell Wardrop

Paul Johnstone said...

Great advice, BUT the US communicators are now advising we have 2 elevator pitches per product or service...............

The idea is 15 words or 4 seconds to generate interest and 30 seconds to develop the argument. You pays your money and takes your choice!!!!!!!