If you’re an executive, you probably already know the value of a powerful ‘elevator pitch’; that thirty second dazzling display of verbal brilliance designed to deftly sum up your position, your product, your qualifications or your company.
You also know just how tough it is to master the art of explaining your “unique selling proposition” in the time it takes an elevator to travel the length of a tall building. You know your business, product, service or issue well, but where do you begin in explaining it to someone else? What do you highlight? What do you leave out?
Whether you’re seeking votes, customers, a job, a partnership, or simply understanding, you have to know what to say and how to say it when faced with the opportunity to meet a key decision-maker. Perfecting your elevator pitch helps you explain yourself clearly and to best effect, giving you an edge in all executive communication.
How then to develop a powerful elevator pitch? Here are some brief tips to help you develop your pitch or perfect the one you use:
- Know who’s catching
Your pitch is far more likely to be accurate if you know your target. Everything you say has to be aimed at your listener and center on what you, your service or product can do for them. Make sure your entire pitch is about them. Don’t waste time highlighting your awards, your record or other markers of your success, unless you know how those relate to what your listener needs to hear. Leave out supportive data, long stories, detailed examples and anything that isn’t about ‘the bottom line.’
- Stay away from platitudes
Every business says it’s “customer-focused” and “results oriented.” Every would-be hire calls themselves “reliable” and an “out of the box” thinker. Every department believes they’re unique, and every cause believes it’s “just.” Ever hear of a startup that didn’t believe it had found a “winning strategy”? Find the uniqueness of what you’re offering and be able to explain why your audience should care. This is not your mission statement. It’s your core delivery.
- Preparation is the key to confidence
Don’t ever “wing it.” A first impression only happens once. Respect your audience enough to prepare well, including arming yourself with succinct answers to the toughest questions that might follow your pitch. Be flexible enough to be guided by your listener. If he or she interrupts with questions, make sure you answer them.
- Solve a problem
Don’t just offer capabilities, opinions or a suite of services. You’ve got to focus on the problem you solve; the solution you offer to this specific audience. If your audience has to ask “How does this help me?” or “Why should I care?” you’re in trouble.
- Let the passion show
Facts actually DON’T speak for themselves. They can move heads, but it takes emotion to move hearts. Let your listener hear the commitment in your voice and your words. Let them see your involvement with direct eye contact and confident body language. An elevator pitch is not a dry recitation of facts delivered neutrally. If you want to move someone to take action, you have to show them you care.
- Call for action
Give your listener something to do with the information they’ve just received. Make clear what you want to have happen and the suggestions or alternatives you are proposing. Talk about next steps, and make sure the action you want them to take is clearly understood.
Aileen Pincus is a former reporter,U.S. Senate executive staffer, and public relations executive, who now provides crisis and media training, as well as presentation and speech training, as president of her own communications firm in Maryland.