Posted by: careerworks | March 14, 2012

Lifting Your Elevator Pitch off the Ground Floor

The first elevator reportedly dates to the first century, when Roman gladiators rode rope and people powered lifts to reach the floor of the Coliseum. The first elevator speech may have occurred not long after… possibly as a pair of combatants exchanged trash talk before an upcoming fight? There’s no doubt that today’s job seeker doing battle in the marketplace can ill afford to miss a chance to make the right impression on a potential employer when they happen to cross paths. This is the genesis of the modern elevator pitch, a 30- to 60-second presentation suitable for delivery in the brief interval when two people find themselves in close proximity between floors.

Almost everyone in business has an elevator pitch story. Sometimes it relates how an entrepreneur cleverly landed an introduction to what turned out to be a cornerstone customer. More often, it includes elements of confusion, delay, and regret at a missed opportunity. To make sure you don’t miss your elevator opportunity when it arises, rid your mind of these three common elevator speech misconceptions, and embrace the truth.

Myth 1: An elevator pitch is a sales tool.

Reality: That’s true only if you consider an advertisement a sales tool. An elevator pitch should not be prepared or presented as if the end goal were to get a signed job offer on the spot. The environment — a hallway encounter, waiting in a queue at a coffee shop, or standing in an actual elevator — is not conducive to getting a job. Rather, an elevator pitch should be an introduction, a primer and an educational tool.

Myth 2: Pack your elevator speech with facts that will amaze the listener and demonstrate a mastery of technical nomenclature.

Reality: Trim your fact-packed presentation down to the one or two most important statistics or other data points. And avoid the jargon. Your goal is to inform and intrigue, not to overwhelm or confuse.

Myth 3: Once you’ve written and practiced your elevator speech, you’re ready.

Reality: The problem here is that you need more than one elevator speech. The one you’ll use in a given situation depends on your objective as well as the person who will hear it. You’ll have one speech for an encounter with a potential employer, another for a networking contact. Your abilities to quickly size up your elevator-mate, choose an appropriate goal for the ride, and select the proper speech from your repertoire are crucial. Don’t neglect the art of the one-on-one, seconds-long presentation. Unless you live in a strictly one-story town, you’ll need it.


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