March 10, 2016
There's this collective group groan that happens when the words, “elevator pitch” are spoken.
(For the record, it sounds like: gggggeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrduuuurrrrrruhhhhhhSPLAT.) In my experience, this is usually for one of three reasons:
- Someone once insisted that if you're ever riding in an elevator, you MUST! BE! ABLE! TO! SELL! YOURSELF! BEFORE! THE! NEXT! STOP! (So now you have PTSD every time someone asks you if you're—ding, ding ding—going up.)
- You couldn't explain what you do in thirty minutes, let alone thirty seconds, so the idea of doing this exercise makes you vomitey. (Vomitey without a bag vomitey.)
- You really hate elevators. And when there are smelly people inside elevators. And when you thought the elevator was going up but it's really going down and then you try to play it off like you totally meant to do that.
THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL. THERE ARE NO MISTAKES IN ELEVATOR RIDING.
No matter your reason for hating elevator pitches, they don't have to be as painful / awkward / robotic / mindfuckey as they seem.
Most advice goes something like this: Start with your why! Focus on the benefits! Communicate your unique selling proposition! Fill in the blank: “I help people _________.” Or, start with a question! “Have you ever __________?”
I'm going to ask you to slowwwwwwly step away from that angle, and instead, consider another, because here's the thing about a brilliant elevator pitch: It doesn't sound like an elevator pitch.
The worst is when you're sitting there listening to someone painstakingly rattle off this mechanical, canned, half-memorized, half-stuttery thing. It's stiff. It's unnatural. And it's agonizing enough to make you take the toothpick out of your martini and drive it through your eardrum.
“I help women become their best selves through a high-level series
of principles around self-actualization.”
What? Stop it. Stop it right now. Not only does that sound like complete BS, but nobody knows what that even means.
Just like you want to sound natural in your writing, you want to sound natural when you're speaking, too. Because the delivery is more important than the declaration. You might be giving the Gettysburg Address, but if you sound like you're nervous and unsure of yourself, OR if you sound like you're reading out of the dictionary, the entire message falls flat. And no TMFer of mine is going to show up flat chested.
Rather, instead of delivering a formal “elevator pitch,” try this trick the next time someone asks you what you do:
- First, instead of launching into a rehearsed speech, I want you to casually say this out loud to yourself right now: “Man, my job is so cool.” Say it! Out loud. (Stop being such a weirdo about this.) “Man, my job is so cool.” Like you were commenting to your best friend, or your mother, or your pet parrot.
- Now, I want you to practice saying it as casual as you might imagine Matthew McConaughey would say it. Not even kidding: The actual Matthew McConaughey (southern twang optional.) I want you to relax your voice. To practice sounding easy going and light. And to say it as if you were nodding your head, sipping on a bourbon. And now, go ahead and imitate Matthew McConaughey: “Man, my job is so cool.”
- Now, instead of high-level generalities about what you do, I want you to follow that by telling me about two specific, memorable moments about your work that really stand out as something you enjoy. “Oh, man, my job is so cool: I get to write ads for rap videos and write books about giving the finger—literally.”
You know what this kind of introduction does? Not only do you sound more real, more human, more spur-of-the-moment and actually enthusiastic, but you also:
- Created an opportunity to toot your own horn without sounding braggy
- Said something memorable and sticky (humans remember specifics and forget generalities)
- Encouraged dialogue, because who's not going to want to know more? Precisely the goal of the “elevator pitch” in the first place.
Compare and contrast that to a standard elevator pitch, which might sound something like:
“I'm Ash Ambirge and I help women be brave in their businesses and use words to stand out from the sea of sameness.”
What?????????????????? *rolls eyes* That means nothing to anyone who hasn't ever come across my website before.
And yet, that's precisely the kind of elevator pitch most folks are constantly being advised to give.
The problem with that is this: There's no context. While I do help women be brave in their businesses, it's too vague—no one has any context to put that statement in. That could mean anything. Am I a life coach? Am I a psychologist? Am I a sword-swallowing feminist?
Try going in the opposite direction, instead. Instead of being big picture and vague, think specific and special.
Instead of, “I help brides-to-be plan their wedding,” try, “Man, my job is so cool: I get to hunt down Tuscan castles and come up with artsy decorations for brides-to-be who are getting hitched abroad.”
Instead of, “I help women lose their mental baggage that shows up as physical weight on their body,” try, “Man, my job is so cool: I get to speak at weight loss conferences in places like New York and give healthy cooking workshops to thousands online—which is surprisingly not as terrifying as it sounds.”
The devil isn't in the details—the interesting is. And when the things you say are interesting, you become more interesting, too.
Pitch less. Profess more. And remember that MatthewMcConaughey isn't just eye candy.
He's ear candy, too.