How many times have you been approached at a meet up or networking event with a question – ‘what do you do’?
I wince at this question. It’s very difficult to say what you do when your independent career is varied. Many of us have ‘slash careers’, when you have a number of different hats. That innocuous question often leaves me gabbling. Not a good start!
So I’ve spent some time trying to perfect my elevator pitch, which is a way of describing what I do and how I do it that will help me explain how my new found friends can connect with me.
What is an elevator pitch?
Essentially, an elevator pitch is a shorthand way to describe something. It gives your listener a concise overview of your proposition, whether that’s you personally or your product or service. You might use a variation of it as your Twitter or LinkedIn summary, but in the main, it’s designed to be said to someone, so you’ve got no chance to pad it out.
Everyone who is in the business of selling a product or themselves needs to get their elevator pitch right. But as freelancers and independents, our very existence depends on our being able to articulate our value and our points of difference to prospective clients and investors.
What do you need to cover in your elevator pitch?
It might be useful to think of your elevator pitch in the same way that you think about your CV or resume. Keep a generic version for all eventualities and some tailor made ones for specific roles that you are interested in. Perhaps you are a marketing consultant/change management guru/writer? Depending on who you are hoping to convince, think about the context and adapt the words, whilst staying true to your own personality and the way you approach each role.
Although you want to get to a short summary, you should try and cover the following areas:
- How are you different from other people offering the same service?
- Who do you work with/want to work with?
- What is the problem that you are solving?
- How do you go about solving that problem?
Think about why this is called an ‘elevator pitch’. It’s designed to be short enough that you can get your point across in the space of an average lift or elevator ride. That’s a couple of paragraphs, perhaps around 200 words.
Capture attention fast
Let’s get back to our networking event. The last thing anyone wants is to get stuck with the bore in the room! You need to be able to hold their attention just long enough to get to their follow on question. So you need to grab them in the first sentence and get them to stay interested. Once you’ve got your opening gambit out there, it’s more likely they’ll enter into a longer conversation with you when you can explore potential collaboration in more detail.
And what do you want them to do?
Think of this as The Ask. Or as we marketers call it, the ‘Call to Action’. What reaction do you want? What you really want is to pique their attention and to have them thinking ‘that sounds interesting, I wonder how we might work together?’ So, think about how you make this as easy as possible (without shoving your business card in their face). Often the way to do this is to think of something that you have in common and show you’ve been listening by reframing your elevator pitch in their terms.
Get out of my face!
Although we call this an elevator pitch, please don’t view this as an opportunity to overtly sell. Of course you are, but there’s nothing worse than an overly technical and in your face sales pitch. In fact, it’s guaranteed to have the reverse effect.
Think of it instead as a way to get your thoughts about who you are and what you have to offer clear in your own mind. Over time, it will help you to develop your personal proposition, work out what you are good at and where you need to bring in some help. It’ll also help you to decide what kind of people you want to work with, because you will focus on getting your message right for your audience.
Good luck – and let us know if you have any interesting elevator pitches of your own!