Posted on January 18, 2007
Filed Under (Advice) by jennifer

I am writing to all of you today about the importance of having a good elevator pitch in your “mental” pocket because of an experience I had this Tuesday. 

Btw, for those of you unfamiliar with the term or concept “elevator pitch,” here is a good explanation provided by Wikipedia:

An elevator pitch (or elevator speech) is a brief overview of an idea for a product, service, or project. The pitch is so called because it can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride (say, thirty seconds or 100-150 words).

The term is typically used in the context of an entrepreneur pitching an idea to a venture capitalist to receive funding. Venture capitalists often judge the quality of an idea and team on the basis of the quality of its elevator pitch, and will ask entrepreneurs for the elevator pitch so to quickly weed out bad ideas.

I may have first heard the term when I was freelancing at GE Capital. It was rumored — or perhaps fact — that Jack Welch, GE’s former (and infamous) CEO would often corner employees in an elevator and give them just a few seconds to explain how or what they contributed to GE. If Welch felt you didn’t adequately acquit yourself, that elevator ride could be your last at GE. 

So getting back to my cautionary tale on the importance of a solid elevator pitch…

On a lark, I recently entered an online “contest” (for lack of a better word) to be one of the lucky few to present an under three-minute pitch to the editor-in-chief of BestLife magazine (the “big brother” of Men’s Health, both published by Rodale), which would be videotaped for posterity. The contest was held by Mediabistro.com, an organization serving freelance creatives (writers, editors, designers, web developers, etc.). I have been wanting to get published in a national trade magazine, so I thought this could be a big break. As luck (or skill) would have it, the editorial director of Mediabistro.com liked my pitch, and I was in.

I did my research, or as much as I could without having access to back issues of the magazine, and perfected my one-minute pitch (had to leave time for Q & A). Then I discovered that the magazine had recently run a similar article and had to change course. I racked my brains, did more research, and asked some successful fortysomething men (BestLife‘s target demographic) I knew for their opinions. But none of my alternative pitches really grabbed me — or them — the same way as the original, and I was out of time.

Mediabistro.com still wanted me to go, so I picked a pitch, crossed my fingers, and went.

BIG MISTAKE. Before I had even finished my pitch, the EIC began to rapid fire ask me questions and pick apart my pitch. Under the pressure of the EIC, the time clock, and the video camera less than four feet away, I floundered (or foundered, depending on your point of view), though I retained my poise and equilibrium (barely).

The problem: I simply wasn’t passionate about my subject and hadn’t prepared my elevator pitch enough and, as a result, did not get the gig. Worse, I let myself down and felt humiliated. I knew, my customers knew, and even the editorial director of Mediabistro.com knew, that I was a good writer. But in those three minutes that didn’t mean anything.

If you want to get the gig, you have to have to have a persuasive elevator pitch and really nail it.

So, as a service to all of you, here are some short but excellent “how-to” articles on how you can perfect your elevator pitch, so you DO get the gig.

From Business Know-How:  The Art of the Elevator Pitch

From StartupNation: Learn how to deliver a masterful Elevator Pitch

From NFIB: Elevator Pitches: Making Them Work for You

From Fast CompanyPerfecting Your Pitch

Looking for more help?  Google “elevator pitch.”

Good luck!

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