Have you ever found yourself lost for words when someone asks you what you do? Many business people know exactly what makes their brand great, but struggle to describe it to other people.
When you are networking, or meeting new people, you need an “elevator pitch” to introduce yourself and your brand.
First Impressions Count
It is said that the term “elevator pitch” derives from the early days of Hollywood: You find yourself in the elevator with a film director and you have approximately thirty seconds between floors to catch that director’s attention before he (it was always a “he” in those days) walks away from you.
You have to find a way of telling him about yourself that will make him stop and listen, or at least ask for your card so that he can contact you again.
Today, we use the term to refer to the way you introduce yourself to new business contacts, summing up what you do in a very short statement. Of course, the person you are talking to is unlikely to walk away after thirty seconds (although it is not unknown!), but their attention may start to wander, they might start to talk about something else, or others may join you.
In fact, research shows that most people form a preliminary impression of a new person within half a minute of talking to them, and that this impression will stay with them throughout subsequent encounters. If you are at a busy event where people are making lots of introductions you want to ensure that you make a positive and memorable impression.
Elevator Pitch: Make It Short and Snappy
Be concise: Remember that your goal is to make a good impression and to give people information that they will remember. The basic elements of the elevator pitch are your name, your business name and what you do. The first two are easy – and you can reinforce them with your business card – but it is the third element that needs some thought.
What exactly do you do and what is your USP (unique selling proposition)? Why should anyone be interested in what you can offer?
You need to condense what is unique about your brand into a couple of sentences and to express it in simple terms. Don’t get bogged down in technical detail but describe your activities in terms of what you provide to the consumer.
Although this is not a sales pitch (you are describing yourself, not selling your services), you want to give an indication of what you do that is different; why a customer would choose you over your competitors.
Using Your Elevator Pitch
Preparation is vital. Once you have decided what you are going to say, it is helpful to practise saying it out loud to make sure you don’t stumble over any words. Check that your physical appearance matches your pitch: People start to form opinions about you before you start to speak, and you don’t want your appearance to undermine your message. It is fine to be creative, if that is the image you wish to convey, but be sure that you look smart and professional as well.
Although you have spent a lot of time planning and rehearsing your pitch, remember that it is a tool you use during networking events, not a speech. Introduce it into the conversation naturally and be ready to answer questions or to supply supplementary information. Of course, the other person may be waiting for you to ask them what they do so that they can offer their own elevator pitch; that is all part of networking!
Review and Update Your Pitch
Once you have perfected your pitch, review it periodically to make sure that it still reflects what you do. You will find yourself using it in all kinds of situations where you have to introduce yourself. Carefully crafted, this brief conversation will help people to remember you and your brand. It will also focus your own mind on what is unique about what you do.