What's your pitch?

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One of the key things that can make the networking process much easier is developing and getting extremely comfortable with your elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is a concise, focused and interesting description of who you are and what you do, imagine if you were riding on an elevator with your perfect business prospect and you had just a few seconds to get your most important points across.

The intention – just like a 30 second commercial on radio or TV is to pique interest, give them just enough to get a glimmer of something interesting…and nothing more. You want to engage your audience, give them an interesting overview of what you can do – and then promptly move on to talking about them.

You’re not trying to sell, you’re networking and the primary focus of networking is to establish a connection by focusing on the other person. However, even if you get the ball rolling by asking them questions, at some point they will ask you what you do. By having a response that you’re comfortable with and that is intriguing / not boring you can convey the important up front stuff, make an impression and go back to focusing on making a connection.

So how do you create a good 30 second commercial?

There are several ways to create a good commercial and you should definitely plan on refining it over time, but here are a couple of thoughts that should get you started:

1. Figure out what is unique about what you do: This gets to the idea of your unique service proposition – what makes your business different than others in the marketplace. “I develop websites for small businesses” isn’t nearly as effective as “I create an effective online marketing presence for small businesses that includes professional design without the high cost of custom web development”.

2. Get to the point: Start with something that grabs their attention, a hook, it could be your slogan or tagline if you have one. If you don’t have one, it might be worth the effort to develop one.

  • Instead of “I’m an architect” it could be “I help people turn their dreams into reality”
  • Instead of “I’m a financial planner” you could try “We help people create and manage wealth”
  • Instead of “I’m a portrait photographer” you could try “I make people look good”

3. Keep it simple: In general use clear, simple, evocative language that quickly gets to the point. Briefly explain who you work with and how you solve your customer’s problems. Keep it to no more than 2 or 3 key ideas. You might actually be able to do everything under the sun, but if you want to be remembered you need to narrow it down.

4. Invoke your passion: You’re in business for a reason, and it isn’t just to pay the bills (or at least it shouldn’t be). What excites you about what you do? Tap into that passion and motivation when you’re describing your business.

5. Write down and air it out: The act of writing it down will force you to think it all the way through. Once you’re done writing, practice saying it out loud, rewrite as necessary. Once you think you’ve got a good starting point run it past some friends and get their feedback. Incorporate changes and repeat as necessary.

6. Memorize it but improvise: Finally once you’ve got something you’re happy with and excited about, practice it to the point that you can internalize it, so that it’s second nature to you. Depending on the situation you might be fairly formal and use your entire ‘pitch’ or if it’s a more conversational 1 on 1 discussion you might just use parts of it.

How about some examples?

There’s a fantastic article in INC. Magazine that does a great job of capturing the thought process of how you might condense your message.  Explain what your company does in 30 Seconds!

Steve Strauss is a columnist for USATODAY.com and the author of the “Small Business Bible”. He has a great example of how a good elevator pitch can make a big difference:

And then it happened. I met Teddy Roosevelt, and he changed my life.

You see, one day I was lamenting my lack of progress in my nascent speaking career to a fellow speaker. A rotund gentleman who would dress up as Roosevelt, our 26th president, and share T.R.’s ideals to business and civic groups, he had plenty of engagements. I asked him to tell me his secret.

“What is it you talk about Steve?” he asked.

“Oh, small business success, basically,” I replied.

Pregnant pause. “Hmmm,” he finally responded.

So I asked, “Well, what is it you talk about?”

“Me?” he answered excitedly, “I share with groups the values and ideals of Teddy Roosevelt and show them how they can use those values to make a difference in their world. By the time I’m done, they are so excited and so committed to the idea of making a difference at home and at work that I usually get a standing ovation.”

Now, if you were going to hire a speaker, and the choice was between animated Teddy and boring me, whom would you choose?

I would love to hear your elevator pitch – share it here for the world!

Shawn Kinkade   www.aspirekc.com

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