Spring Training: Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch

We get only one chance to make a good first impression and beyond the visual presentation that your clothing and accessories communicate, followed by how you greet those that you meet (with a pleasantly firm handshake, friendly eye contact and a warm smile), what you say means a great deal.

In business-related gatherings or meetings the direct communication of your elevator pitch must grab the attention of the listener, inspire confidence and entice him/her to want to hear more.  Your elevator pitch is a sales technique wrapped in a conversational tone that piques the interest or even curiosity of the prospects, referral sources, investors, or strategic partners that you meet and entices them to want to know more about you and what you do.  Your elevator pitch is Step 2 in the process of meeting and winning over a VIP (getting the meeting is Step 1).

An elevator pitch (or elevator speech) is your official business introduction.  In it, you state what you do, for whom you do it and the outcomes and/or benefits that you provide to your clients, all in about 30 seconds.  As the story goes you step into the elevator, encounter someone who would like to know who you are and you roll out your spiel between floors.

A well-designed and delivered elevator pitch answers the (unspoken) question, “What can you do for me?” If good luck is on your side, you’ll have a business card handed to you, with a request to call that afternoon at 5:15 PM.  Your elevator pitch should address at least three of the following points:

  • The problem or need that you solve, i.e., the purpose or mission of your venture.
  • Identify your usual or ideal target clients (for-profit, not-for-profit, life sciences professionals, B2B, B2G, Fortune 1000, etc.).
  • Identify one or two of the primary results that your organization provides.
  • Name one or two of the primary benefits that your clients receive as a result of your services.

Depending on what you do, your (heavy-hitting) client list, the person or group that you’re addressing, or your mood, don’t shy away from getting a little bold about the value that you bring.  Even introverts can step up in their own quietly determined way.  If you have some credible (and demonstrable) metrics to attach to the outcomes and results that you produce, so much the better.  That is, if you can truthfully say, for example,  that 9 out of 10 of the marketing campaigns that you design for clients are routinely associated with a 15% increase in top line (gross) revenues within a 12 month period, then include that information in your elevator pitch.

Alternatively, you can keep your pitch very stripped-down and simple and state something like, “You know when this (problem or need) crops up? I fix it.”

Ideally, whoever you’re speaking with will want to hear more but if s/he doesn’t give much of a response, that means you are not speaking with a prospective client and it’s useful to know that up front.  Your elevator pitch will separate the wheat from the chaff and help you recognize who deserves your time and who does not.

If you’ve delivered a good elevator pitch that portrays you as a knowledgeable and trustworthy professional, you may get a client or you may get a referral.  You could also get an invitation to appear on a panel, speak at a business association meeting, or an inquiry about your teaching skills.  An effective elevator pitch is an integral component of the first impression that you make.  Be certain that what you say communicates your brand in the best possible way and it will open doors for you.

Thanks for reading,




Presentations: Impromptu and Prepared

In June of this year,   I became president of a local membership organization that is primarily social.  I’ve been a member for 12 years and a board member for 8 or 9 years.  I find the experience to be very gratifying.  I’ve made friends.  I’ve continued to develop and refine leadership skills.  I am fortunate to preside over a board that is comprised of top drawer members who are committed to the organization and who work diligently to develop strategies and plans that will sustain the organization over the short- and long-term.  I do whatever I can to create conditions that enable board and committee members to do their best work and then get out of the way and let them do it.

To become an organization leader is to become its public face and unifying symbol to its members.  Public speaking is part of the job.  It is often necessary to offer words of inspiration and encouragement and verbally demonstrate that you embody the vision,  mission and values of the organization.  There are impromptu speaking  “opportunities”  that arise when you are half way through a second glass of wine and surprise! someone asks you to say a few words.  How do you successfully make an unrehearsed speech and manage to sound reasonably eloquent (and sober)?

There are also impromptu speaking opportunities that are professional in nature,  where one must speak ex tempore about business.  These speaking obligations are unscheduled but they are not completely unexpected,  since one attends certain events with the desire to meet and greet peers and prospects and talk business.  Finally,  there are scheduled speaking opportunities,  when one presents information to prospective clients.  Three types of speaking opportunities:  how can you stand and successfully deliver?

I.  Let’s start with the easiest,  the business meet and greet.  This is where your elevator speech is delivered.   You must decide which version you will roll out.   Are you being introduced to someone and asked what you do?  Keep your elevator speech conversational and limited to what the business provides,  your role or title and the name of the organization.  If someone asks what you do while in conversation,  give a vague but accurate description of the outcomes or benefits of the service you provide or products you sell.  Formulate a sentence that describes the business function and your role,  with a focus on benefits and outcomes.  In either scenario,  provide more information only if the person seeks more information.  Make the encounter a dialogue by asking questions of your own,  to establish whether this individual has a need for your products and services,  or is just making conversation.

2.  Twice,  I have been unexpectedly asked to address members of the organization for which I serve as president and twice I did a good job.  How did I do it?  Primarily,  I was fortunate to have a very good set-up introduction and I was smart enough to listen and pick out a phrase on which I could launch a quick little speech.  In the first,  I found a good tag line that I still occasionally use.  In the second,  I was able to find a theme and spin it into a good three-minute talk.  The moral of the story is,  a leader must anticipate public speaking obligations.  Keep your antennae tuned for anecdotes or observations made by organization members or others that can be used to develop an inspirational mini-speech.

3.  I pass along to you my interpretation of a Power Point presentation template developed by Bahar Martonosi of Princeton University.  You may find this template useful when auditioning for a prospective client or delivering a report of findings during a consulting assignment:

Your name and business name   (1 slide)

Project outline: work that the prospect would like performed   (1 slide)

Rationale: why is the project or problem important to the organization    ( 1 – 2 slides)

History: what has been done before   (0- 2 slides)

Method: your firm’s approach to the project or problem   (1 – 3 slides)

Results: this is the body of the talk.  Present the key results and findings. Do not present all results or findings.  (2 – 6 slides)

Summary:   (1 – 2 slides)

Back-up:  prepare slides that answer expected questions   (1 – 3 slides)

Keep things simple and focus on a few key points.

Repeat the key insights.

Know your audience and adjust the presentation as needed.

The post-presentation informal Q & A is very important.

Make eye contact,  be approachable and it’s OK to smile  (but this is business, not social, so know your role).

Make your audience want to learn more.

Thanks for reading,