There’s no bigger regret than a missed opportunity.  We miss opportunity mainly through lack of preparedness at the time an opportunity presents itself; this includes the inability to recognize an opportunity for what it is.  Always be prepared.  Easy solution, right?  Well I always say that in anything, it’s not the ‘what’ it’s the ‘how.’  Show me, don’t tell me.  Every big idea has to be broken down into smaller, bite-sized, easily-digestible pieces.

So, how do we prepare?

Opportunity mostly lives in the land of the unknown unknowns. But there is a tool we all can and should develop that will build a bridge between us and that most desirable of all destinations – the land of opportunity.  That tool is called the elevator pitch.  A fine-tuned elevator pitch should articulate your purpose succinctly, passionately and clearly – in up to 90 seconds.  And it is not only relevant to business.  You can pitch yourself!  Use it as a self-inspiring tool that reminds you why you wake up every morning; it can silence negative self-talk.  Have a pitch for your job search, business prospects and fundraising.

Preparation for writing your elevator pitch begins with having a clear idea of who you will be pitching to.  The questions you have to ask yourself will depend on your needs and the outcome you want.  For example, are you looking for an investor or a client?  Consider these questions: Who will your audience be?  What problem(s) are they trying to solve and how can you provide resolution?  What is unique about what you have to offer?  What skills and experience qualify you?  What are your needs; what is in it for the listener to help you solve your problem?

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So, what is an elevator pitch?

The truth is we are all salespeople. Everybody is selling something, but ultimately the thing we’re really selling is ourselves.  The elevator pitch is a very brief statement that tells the (hopefully) listener who you are, what you want and how what you have to offer is relevant and valuable to them or in the marketplace.  As far as the latter, the person you’re talking to may not be the one you really need to talk to but he or she may be the link between you and that person.  It’s not important to have all the answers as to whether or not the person you’re speaking with is the right connection; what is important is to master the things you can control, which in this case is articulating a compelling narrative that allows someone else to see you as a potential connection.

Fake It

So, how do we create an elevator pitch?

There are of course the mechanics of writing a pitch.  But the thing to really keep in mind is the power of storytelling.  A good elevator pitch is both informative and engaging.  The end of the story is what will make it or break it; it must be memorable and compel the listener to want to tell it to someone else.  People like retelling great stories.

  • Start with who you are: Don’t be afraid to be enthusiastic and friendly. Start with either a question to raise their curiosity, a statement or catch phrase that will prompt the listener to ask a question.  “I am a first-generation American continuing my family’s legacy here in the United States.  I’m the big-picture person who focuses on developing markets for our textiles company, XYZ International..   
  • Make sure to be clear on your offer, or value proposition.  And let the listener know why you’re interested in them.  “We help small suppliers in Central America earn a living wage by supplying the finest hand-made organic cotton and wool apparel and home goods in the market, at affordable prices.  I understand (your company) is looking for textiles made with organic materials for the price-conscious consumer?”
  • Summarize the benefits/advantages of working with you; what sets you apart from the competition.  “We operate within Free Trade Zones in each country, which significantly lowers our costs to market and enables an efficient supply chain.” Give a brief example.
  • End with a Call To Action.  “We’re currently scheduling appointments to show off our new bedding line. May I bring some samples to show you and your team?”

So, how do I get started?

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As I stated in the beginning, your elevator pitch must be fine tuned.  And it’s not a one-shot deal.  You will have to adjust the original as you progress.  Now, get your pen and paper ready.  Here are some tips to get your ideas flowing:

  1.  Write down everything you can think of to tell your prospective client/boss/investor. What makes your business or idea unique? What have you done? What are you planning too accomplish? What do you have to offer that the listener wants or needs? What problem can you solve for them?
  2. Edit.  Eliminate extraneous words and details.  Make every word count! No small talk.
  3. Tweak it until it flows smoothly.  If any part sounds awkward to you it will to the person you’re talking to.
  4. Practice. Practice. Practice.  Anchor your pitch in the key points that you always want to come across clearly.  Memorize it and practice saying it out loud, so that it is second nature by the time you need to say it.
  5. Your pitch will fall flat if it doesn’t address the only question your listener wants answered: WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?”

Let Your Body Talk

When you feel good about the elevator pitch you have developed it is time to take the leap to the testing phase.  Put yourself in situations where you will meet other people in your industry where you will be asked what you do.  Do not underestimate the power of body language.  Your body language will speak even more loudly than your voice will.  Like preparedness, your body language can imbue you with the confidence you may not feel yet.  Stand with shoulders back and be very careful about what your hands communicate. Keep your body open, keep your hands in front of you.  Maintain eye contact with a pleasant disposition.  Research body language and practice it as you rehearse your pitch.

Industry organizations, networking events, alma mater socials, etc are great places to try out your pitch.  When you’re in a group make a connection with each person by looking each person in the eye while expressing a single thought.  Try to avoid cutting off the other people around you. Practice with people with whom there is nothing to lose if you fumble a little.  Don’t make your first stop the biggest fish in the pond.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

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