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Get your elevator pitch off the ground floor

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You know the drill… You’ve got an executive’s undivided attention for the length of an elevator ride.

What can you say in that 60 seconds that will spark interest, provide enough detail to show credibility, and land a follow-up meeting?

I recently attended an enlightening presentation by Rick Coplin and Greg Pugh of the TechColumbus business incubator on the essentials of an effective elevator pitch.  The session was part of the business-focused educational programming open to the community hosted by the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center.

What’s the right situation for an elevator pitch?

A good pitch is useful for much more than the hypothetical captive executive.

Fact is, you’re constantly faced with situations in which you need introduce yourself and your business.  Preparing an effective elevator pitch will ensure you’re always ready for an introduction to a prospective client, investor, hiring manager, or even your friends at the neighborhood cookout.

Your pitch will take on a different flavor for each situation, but the core elements remain the same.

Make an impression

People make snap judgments.  The first few seconds of a conversation determine whether you capture or lose your audience’s attention.

Start your pitch with something that will connect what you do to your audience on a level they can relate to.  It’s OK to start with humor, a gripping anecdote, or even a compelling statistic.  But keep it short and focused.

Educate and create interest

An elevator pitch is a well-crafted advertisement.  It’s the handshake of a new relationship and an invitation to continue the conversation.

Once you have their attention, support your initial assertion with facts to establish credibility and state what makes you or your approach different.

Make the problem, solution, and opportunity clear.  There’s little worse than getting to the end of a pitch and having your audience think, “That’s great, but so what?”

Focus on the audience, not your cool thing

Too often, a business owner or professional is so excited about their business, product, or approach that they want to tell you everything all at once.  This comes from a justifiable pride in their business or accomplishments.  But it’s the wrong approach for an elevator pitch.

If you lead with a granular level of detail at a cocktail party, people will reach for the hors d’oeuvre tray instead of their calendar to schedule a follow-up meeting.

Stick to the high points, and keep the focus on what the audience will want to hear about what you do.

Practice and refine

Get out there and try it.  Wind up and deliver your pitch to friends and colleagues – and even strangers at the airport.

It’s only through practice that you can assess and improve your effectiveness; both by hearing the words come out of your mouth, and by getting direct feedback from your audience.

How does your pitch stand up?

The session concluded with an opportunity for the professionals in the audience to present their pitch and get feedback from the group.

Based on information from the session, several took a new approach to the way they describe their business and their role.  Some standouts:

  • I help organizations find their hidden treasure.
  • I’m a Swiss Army knife.
  • I’m an Environmental Superhero.
  • I help start-ups. That’s all I do… I love to help start-ups.

Each of those opening lines makes you want to learn more, doesn’t it?

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