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Weekend Warrior: How to Write an Elevator Pitch

Editor’s note: Welcome back to our new, ongoing Weekend Warrior series where we give you something short and sweet to accomplish in a weekend. Enjoy!

So… What do you do?”

Ah… that most dreaded, yet inescapable question of networking.

Sometimes it’s a conversational crutch you can turn into a joke without fear of making a bad impression (“I tickle penguins semi-professionally”).

Other times, it’s a master key for unlocking valuable business opportunities, strategic partnerships, and avenues of growth.

A good elevator pitch paves the way to a priceless business relationship that lasts a lifetime.

A bad—or worse—forgettable one only confuses both parties for a moment. And then the intended recipient of your message wipes you from their memory as soon as somebody else grabs their attention.

To make sure your 30- to 45-second pitch compels people to listen to you, as opposed to making their eyes glaze over, you must invest some effort into crafting it.

For that, you need to take a few steps:

  1. Figure out what your existing elevator pitch is, and write it down.
  2. Prune and cut anything unnecessary from it—without mercy.
  3. Improve what remains with a few targeted fixes I’ll tell you about.

Sound needlessly complicated?

Welll, do you want to make a good impression or not?

I thought so. Then let’s go over each step in detail.

1 – Let It All Out (The Easy Part)

Write down anything and everything you want tell someone when they ask you about your business. Let’s indulge in oversharing while possible!

If you want to include extras like your side gigs, passion projects, quirky skills, and so onplease do. They could be useless, or they might provide a critical piece of the puzzle (we’ll know soon enough).

The result of your efforts could look like anything from an elegant two paragraph summary…

…to a page-long cornucopia of stuff—like your resume got drunk on New Year’s Eve (welcome to 2016, by the way!).

It’s OK, it’s supposed to be messy and clumsy. Now let’s get cutting!

2 – The One Time You’re Allowed to Run With Scissors

networkingCongratulations on the first draft of your elevator pitch! It’s not usable yet, but you’re making progress.

Now, should you pour this untempered deluge of data on somebody you hope to make a connection with, chances are they’ll scream and run away.

And who would blame them?

You need to trim it waaaay downpreferably to something easily shared in under 30 seconds with the practiced calm and confidence of a stage magician.

This part is probably the trickiest, as what you cut and what you keep depend entirely on two things:

  1. Which aspect of your work you want to highlight: your core business, your side project, your charity work, an upcoming event you’re hosting, etc?
  2. Who is the intended recipient of your message: potential business partner, a huge client, someone in a similar niche, or a possible hire?

Both will determine what you tell people, and how you will do that.

For example, an influential blogger won’t care much about your revenue numbersunlike a potential investor. Similarly, someone you hope to hire to work for you will find the info about your outlandish workplace perks not only amusing but also relevant. Yet, the same info will cause a prospect to wonder where you’d spend the money they might give you for a product or service.

(And yes, if you’re wondering, I am suggesting you create more than one elevator pitch. Please refer back to points #1 and #2 in this section.)

3 – Make It Stick Like the World’s Biggest Earworm

Think about your elevator pitch like an acting audition.

The goal is not to “get the part” (e.g. get funding for your business) on the spotit rarely happens at first contact.

Rather, the goal is to be SO memorable that, even if you don’t get what you want, the other person is ready and eager to hear from you in the future.

So how to stand out from a legion of near-identical coaches, consultants, and entrepreneurs who dress, move, and talk the same?

It’s surprisingly easy for exactly these reasons! Let’s take a look at several possible fixes.

Don’t sound like everyone else (please).

There’s nothing wrong with being a life coach, or a consultant, or a business coach, or a CEO of a startup. You have unique skills to contribute to the world—in whatever area those may lie.

But when you label yourself the same as thousands (if not millions) of other people, to someone who doesn’t know you–or the quality of your work—it sends a signal, “They’re like every other [insert job description here] I know.

But you don’t want to be the same.

Sameness can kill a business, let alone a relationship.Click To Tweet

Here’s what you can do to stand out without compromising your message:

1. Craft your own job title

Why wear someone else’s label when you can invent your own?

A catchy title will instantly separate you from the legions of other people pitching their projects, products, or services. And if it’s particularly intriguing, they’ll be dying to know what you do before you finish saying it!

Example: Instead of calling himself something boring like CEO, Noah Kagan of AppSumo, calls himself Chief Sumo. And it works like a charm!

2. Use quirky, unusual language

There’s a time and a place for business lingo (I think there is, anyway).

But when you try to talk corporate or marketing-speak at a human being, they get weirded out and zone out of the conversation. This is the opposite of what you want.

So find a natural, human, non-boring way to describe what you do. It’s easy, I promise.

Example: Peep Laja, one of the world’s biggest conversion experts, describes what he does as, “I identify where websites are leaking money and help fix them.” Simple, short, and to the point.

3. Insert a random interesting fact about yourself

If there is something about you that’s both interesting and appropriate enough to bring up to a stranger, make the most of it. And I bet there is!

When we meet other people for the first time the weird stuff often sticks. Use this to your advantage to ignite relationships with people who would otherwise dismiss you as a face in the crowd.

Example: Derek Sivers, founder of CDbaby, delights in telling people he’s a former circus clown. Another Derek, Derek Halpern, tells everybody he loves bad pop music and academic research.

And if this ends up being the only thing you ever remember about them, it’s OK—that was the plan all along!

4. Focus your pitch on results they want

Instead of describing what you or your company does, describe the results you deliver for people you work with.

People want to hear what you can do for them, and if the promise is relevant and compelling, they will never forget you.

Do you book five-figure speaking gigs for your clients? Excellent, this sounds so much better than “agent for public speakers!

Do you multiply sales for ecommerce websites? Awesome, because “conversion rate optimization” doesn’t have the same ring to it!

Can you increase someone’s traffic by 1,000% or more? Groovy, just tell them that instead of “I’m an SEO expert.

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because this “features vs. benefits” approach is decades old—which is all the more infuriating when people make this basic mistake! Don’t be one of them.

5. Change your method of delivery

If you think about it, the entire premise of an elevator pitch is preposterous and ineffective.

So you’re telling me I need to approach someone I don’t know in person, strike up a conversation, deliver my pitch in under 30 seconds, and then angels will sing, clouds will part, and I will have magically built a relationship?

I don’t think there’s a Universe where stuff like that happens.

You’re much more likely to find the person you hope to chat up already in conversation, or eating, or staring at their phone, or with their spouse, or in any number of social situations you can’t easily insert yourself in.

Now, you could try anyway, and risk making a gigantic fool of yourself. Or you could try passing your message some other way—in the form of a note, handed to the person after a short verbal introduction.

Believe it or not, this method actually works thanks to the sheer strangeness of it. I’ve heard it suggested, among other people, by Tim Ferriss in his podcast episode about networking.

If you struggle with refining your message for all those people you meet in person, don’t feel bad—nobody is a natural at pitching themselves. The best you can do is refine your pitch, approach the right people, and strive for a meaningful human connection.

And, of course, be considerate and respectful if it doesn’t work out.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

And if you have an opinion to share about elevator pitches—what makes a good one, how to approach people sleaze-free, and what next steps to take—please share it in the comments!

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