As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. In fact researchers at New York University found that we make 11 major decisions within seven seconds of meeting someone. In business, the impact of those seven seconds can make or break.
Your elevator pitch is like a verbal business card. Knowing how to present in a clear and concise manner exactly who you are and what you do can prove invaluable in all manner of environments.
Whether it’s selling yourself at a networking event, making small talk in a queue or having a chat to the person next to you on the plane, you’ll never again feel lost for words when asked, “What do you do?” if you can sort out your pitch.
- Put yourself out there
For many people initiating a conversation with a stranger can be a nerve wracking experience, but in business it’s an important skill to master.
“Don’t go launching straight into your elevator pitch,” suggests professional speaker, trainer and communications expert Carren Smith. “After briefly introducing yourself, begin by asking a question about them or the company they work for, or perhaps bring up something topical within your industry,” she adds.
Yes it may feel a tiny bit like a dodgy pick up line, but initiating contact is the hardest part. Before you know it you’ll have the opportunity to talk about you and what you do by presenting your elevator pitch…
- Be interesting
You’ve got a small window of time to talk to someone, and an even smaller amount of time to make that impact and capture their attention. You may think what you do is riveting, but consider your audience and keep your conversation free of technical jargon and industry terminology.
“All that effort to create influence and interest very quickly flies out the window if the listener checks out without you noticing because you’re so busy being enamoured by the opportunity to espouse your brilliance,” says Carren.
Find a way to make who you are and what you do relatable to each person you speak to and not only will you have a captive audience, but you will have the start of a great conversation.
- Keep it real
Don’t confuse an elevator pitch with a sales pitch. If done well, an elevator pitch should leave your listener wanting to know more, and that’s when business should begin.
Your elevator pitch is the perfect opportunity to tell people about you and your values; what you love about your job and how passionate you are about the industry. Don’t just give them what they could learn from your company website.
“We all know that great people make great businesses. Making that human connection is the secret to success here as it will make you memorable among a sea of new faces,” Carren says.
- It’s not always what you say
Non-verbal forms of communication such as eye contact, your handshake and hand gestures can create as much of an impact as anything you’re saying.
“Body language is a powerful form of communication. You’re not going to impress anyone by yawning, fidgeting or stuffing canapés in your mouth. Stay in the moment and focus your energy on the person you’re talking to, they’ll be able to tell the moment your mind starts to wander,” Carren advises.
- Keep it flowing
A good elevator pitch should be just an icebreaker before a genuine conversation. Avoid leaving people feeling ‘sold to’ by rushing off to collect the next business card and show genuine interest in them by closing with an open ended question. This could be different in every scenario, but finding a common connection between their job/industry/personal interests and yours is a good place to start.
“Be fluid, be adaptable to different audiences, and make sure you’re always mindful of what is important to them,” suggests Carren.
- Practice makes perfect
Write your pitch down, and then rehearse it so often it becomes second nature. Film yourself for personal critiquing or role play with family and friends. Put your thick skin on and ask for some honest feedback. Where did they zone out? What did they like?
There’s a difference between practicing and memorising though, and you don’t want to sound robotic in your delivery.
“There should be no difference between your practice and preparation for a 30 second elevator pitch or a 30 minute presentation. Practice to the point where you become fluent in the pitch, you don’t ‘think’ about what you are saying anymore, you just say it while putting your energy into the person and gauging their response,” suggests Carren.
With a polished elevator pitch in your pocket you’ll no longer just be collecting business cards and can start converting them to clients.