Is Your Elevator Pitch Taking You Up? Or Dragging You Down?

Have you ever entered an elevator only to discover someone you want to do business with is riding up to the 11th floor, too? Probably not.Have you ever walked into a room full of business people and been overcome with fear and anxiety when someone asks you who you are and what your business is? If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. It can be especially daunting if you haven’t considered the question, don’t know what to say, where to begin or when to stop. Presenting yourself in 7-15 seconds after someone asks you “So what do you do?” can either drag your business down or spark the beginning of new and profitable business relationship.

To introduce yourself in 7 – 15 seconds, prepare clear and concise answers to the following three questions:

  1. WHAT – What is your product/service?
  2. WHO – Who is your target market?
  3. WHY – What is your passion? What makes your business unique? What separates you from all the others?

Before I go to a networking event, I practice answering these three questions. Every time I introduce myself, it comes out a little different. But that’s okay because that’s what makes my elevator pitch authentic and genuine.

This is the guide I use to introduce myself at networking events:

  1. WHAT – I provide business information and assistance.
  2. WHO – Women in business and women interested in becoming business owners.
  3. WHY – I am passionate about helping women achieve economic prosperity through entrepreneurship.

I rarely say all three statements at once. Depending on the situation and the listener, I will often mention the first two points because they usually provide enough information for the listener to think of a question to ask me, which will hopefully progress into a natural conversation.

Although some people write in long sentences, they generally speak in shorter sentences. Both written and read, the sentence, “I provide information and assistance to women in business and those interested in becoming business owners because I am passionate about helping women achieve economic prosperity” sounds clear and concise. However, if I introduce myself with in one long sentence, the listener may feel overwhelmed. Although I would have included all the key elements of an elevator pitch, I may have also turned the listener off of conversing with me. I caution you on saying too much all at once because it does not sound natural and often results in scaring the listener away rather than intriguing them.

While it’s important that your elevator pitch is clear and concise, it is equally important to sound authentic. If your introduction sounds too rehearsed, it may come across as something you’ve memorized, similar to a grade-school student reciting poetry. At one of the blogging conferences we held in the past, a speaker had the participants practice and film their elevator pitches. The video below is my elevator pitch from that event. As you can see, it isn’t perfect and I didn’t cover all three points above, but I sound genuine. In an informal networking event, authenticity is key.

Five additional tips I keep in mind when networking are:

  1. Smile
  2. Have a firm handshake
  3. Have your business card handy, but don’t bring a bunch of other stuff with you
  4. Enjoy the opportunity to learn about other people and what they do; ask open-ended questions
  5. If you promise to follow up with someone after the event, do so

Good luck in your networking adventures this fall!

– Nancy Brommell

Nancy Brommell is a business advisor at the Women’s Enterprise Centre. Along with many other responsibilities, she is the enthusiastic facilitator of WECM’s Business Plan Development: Marketing Workshops.