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What do you do? A guide to perfecting an elevator pitch

December 8, 2014 Gina Gallup

An elevator pitch is a concise and effective answer to the dreaded question, “What do you do?” Scaling the breadth of your company’s mission and responsibilities down to a couple of sentences requires time and practice. Even if you have already prepared an answer to this question, there are a multitude of ways that you can improve upon your go-to response. Invest five minutes in this article (and our humorous video supplement above) and tomorrow you could be talking business like the bona fide professional that you are, instead of looking like a panicked deer on the interstate.

Before we get to tips on delivering your pitch, let’s talk format. To ensure effectiveness, use a Problem-Solution approach:

You know how (x is a problem),

Well, we (y as a solution).

This format highlights what you do and why it is valuable to your listener. Value is created by your ability to solve problems in ways that your listener cannot. Structuring your pitch with this approach shows your audience how you create solutions for customers.

Let’s say you are an exterminator. Instead of telling people, “We kill bugs better than anyone else,” you should offer a solution to a specific problem: “You know how stink bugs can become really intrusive this time of year? Well, we use a patented non-toxic spray that keeps the bugs out of your living room without threatening the health of your family.”

After you have properly formatted your pitch, make sure to follow these guidelines:

 1. Keep it Concise.

The length of an elevator pitch is a topic of endless debate. Some say one minute, some say two, etc. We say no more than 30 seconds. Why? Elevator pitches are meant to pique interest and start a conversation. Keeping the pitch concise saves the listener from getting lost in an earful of information.

2. Exude Confidence.

 Value is created by your ability to solve problems in ways that your listener cannot.  

Here are a few tips to giving a confident pitch:

  • Start with good posture.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Use hand gestures to reinforce points.
3. Memorize and Practice.

Memorizing your elevator pitch will make telling people what you do as easy as reciting your company’s phone number.

Be sure to practice your pitch on friends and family rather than the mirror. This scenario is still low-stress and makes the step from rehearsing to the real thing much more manageable.

 4. Keep it Conversational.

An elevator pitch is the start of a conversation and, hopefully, a relationship. The biggest mistake one can make is to treat a pitch like a speech. The beauty of two-way communication is that it engages both parties, directly involving your listener in what you have to say.

Your pitch must be provocative. You should compel your audience to ask questions, otherwise their engagement ends with your monologue. If your listener doesn’t ask you a question, be prepared to ask them one.

Say goodbye to the old deer-in-headlights look and start rehearsing your new pitch. You’ll be ready to answer the “What do you do” question at a friend’s house, a swanky cocktail party or any elevator.

So…what do you do?

 

 

 

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