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.
The next time the office reeks of those reheated burritos and the leftover chicken chow mien, don’t just complain that you can’t work under smelly conditions, say a prayer for the restaurant business. The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets are reporting that the U.S. restaurant industry is in big trouble. And the reason can be summarized in one word: lunch.
Americans are not going out to restaurants for lunch and it’s showing up in their bottom lines. Restaurants are reporting the lowest level of lunch traffic in over forty years. Before you think this fact is yet another sign of the apocalypse, think again about your own habits and schedules and you won’t really be surprised. Consider this:
- We all need a moment of solitude during the day as the meetings and expectations and pressures mount. That turkey sandwich at your desk might be all you can muster. It’s not unusual for people to put on headphones and enjoy a chicken Caesar and relax with visions of beaches for just a few minutes.
- Offsite meetups are more likely to take place over a coffee – not lunch. A coffee is much less of a commitment than lunch, and you can do a bunch of them in a day. We may get the caffeine jitters by the middle of the afternoon but there is no doubt that coffee is detracting from the lunch crowd.
- Working from home means your chances of going out to a restaurant for lunch are almost nonexistent. When working from home you will probably dip into the fridge for that burrito or chow mien too.
- More and more companies are providing lunch onsite to make us more efficient. It may not be the chef prepared meals like Google or Facebook but any lunch provided will be good enough if it’s free.
Lunch isn’t going away. Like so many other parts of the workplace, it is just changing. You can pick and choose what kind of lunch person you want to be. Probably even better is to go with the flow of your workplace and do the lunch thing that others do. If everyone goes out to their cars at lunch and eats alone you might want to find another place to work.
For me, I like lunch. I have lunch every day. It’s the break that shouts half way home.
What is your lunchtime routine?
Everywhere I go I see people writing in those cool black journals. I see them in coffee shops, airports, hotel lobbies or any place that requires waiting or wasting time. What are they writing? It doesn’t matter. Whether it be deep thoughts about the universe or a short memo, the act of writing is important. The most successful people I see in business (or most other careers) are excellent writers. In fact, the best writers I ever worked with were investors at a venture capital firm. Their writing told a story about whether or not to invest millions of dollars. I write, and to be successful, you must write too.
The reasons why I write are not complicated but may be helpful to you.
- Writing is cathartic. Pouring out frustrations, plans, complaints and thoughts can be therapeutic. You will feel better after writing things down.
- Writing is not for fame or fortune. J.K. Rowling and a few others aside, you probably will never make much money, if any, for writing. Remember there is a difference between writing and publishing. Writing just to get published never produces great results. Write for the craft, the passion, the creativity.
- Writing will make others think you are smart and your mother will be proud of you. Movies are made about writers and there can be an intimation of a romantic life. That is not true, but don’t tell anyone.
- Writing creates something. Something is there right on the screen or in the notebook and a body of work exists. After spending a day looking at spreadsheets, columns of numbers or in meetings it can be gratifying to know that something, in fact, has been created and you did it.
- Writing helps me connect with special people I haven’t seen in a long time. I want others to know that the person that they knew is still in here. I hope they are reading and smiling.
- Writing can kill time. Have you ever been on an airplane when you don’t feel like reading and the headphones don’t work on the movie? Writing could be the solution. Time can whisk by when lost in thought trying to put a paragraph together.
For me, any illusion of being a great writer disappeared a long time ago. Maybe it was in college when I realized what great writing is and that the notion left me. Great writers make words sing and dance off the page. My words walk along next to each other and eventually form a story. I am an observer, I just write things down that I observe. The formula works for me, I have sold over 500,000 books through major publishers. Even as a writer who chronicles the notion of work, I don’t compete with the great nonfiction writers like Michael Porter or Malcolm Gladwell. The formula works for me but you need to find your own formula – your own voice.
Now I am about to attend a world famous writer’s conference – as a writer. I will be in residence at Writers Week in Listowel, County Kerry in Ireland with the likes of Richard Ford and Alan Cumming. It all started with being an observer and writing it down. You can do that too.