A little boy rang the doorbell and asked if he could give me his elevator pitch about why I should support his basketball team. Yes, elevator pitches are still all the rage and not about to go away. The concept probably started in Silicon Valley, which is ironic, since most of the buildings in Silicon Valley don’t have elevators. And like lots of other things that start in Silicon Valley, the concept has spread for better or worse.
An elevator pitch is a crisp and tantalizing description one can give to a potential investor or employer in the time it takes to get from the lobby to their appointed floor or vice versa. In other words, “You don’t have much time, so make it snappy, entertaining and compelling.”
Most times I am on an elevator, no one talks to anyone else. Even if anyone did talk, I don’t think the rest of the occupants want to hear a pitch. But here we are with elevator pitches coming from kindergartners about acquiring puppies; jilted boys explaining why girlfriends should take them back; authors pitching books to publishers; and complex policies reduced to Twitter blasts.
As a sometimes investor I have heard my fair share of elevator pitches, good and bad. The best elevator pitch to give to an investor will answer two questions:
- What is it? Is it food, software, a device, a drone or a movie?
- What do you want? Is it a huge idea that requires millions or is it a pet project that requires a little advice?
Answering those two questions might be enough to get someone to linger in the lobby where you can go into more details.
Everyone needs an elevator speech about something. Questions like what do you do or tell me about yourself are prime candidates for an elevator answer. To not have one might show poor communication skills when you most need them. And most employers will say that the one thing that hurts people’s careers more than any thing else is poor communication skills. Knowing the key message that you want to convey is more important than all the fluff around it.
Some will say that the concept of elevator pitches is shallow, rude and ineffective. Remember that an elevator pitch is just a metaphor to emphasize how important it is to have a short interesting message, and I am all for that. Sometimes a little more time is required to explain the passion and importance of an idea.
Make sure you have a short, concise, well thought out pitch, but don’t confuse it with communication skills or heartfelt discussions. We need elevator pitches but remember that some elevators only stop after a long ride.