This recent Harvard Business Review blog posting, “Win the business with this elevator pitch,“ invites many questions and quite a bit of debate about what works best in short-term, first contact business communications. You’ll find as many controversies and insights in the comments as in the main posting, including some whose opinions I share — if you are thinking too much about your “elevator pitch” you might be forgetting the essence of great communications, which is ultimately respect for the other person.
After all, the “elevator pitch” is conceptually, a brief self-promotional advertisement. You can dress it up with a bit of two-way “caring” to elicit the desired response — an arranged client meeting or maybe a small purchase — but it is all about what we have to sell rather than what the person trapped in the elevator with us wishes to purchase. Yes, having a brief self-explanatory description of our product/service or business can be helpful in some situations, but I sense that, if we are worried about what we are trying to say rather than how much we can hear, we risk losing the ability to really understand our clients.
I much prefer the concepts of full-scale presentations, where you provide really useful information as a speaker — and enjoy the results afterwards as, with your credibility in hand, audience members want to do business with you. At networking events, the best thing you can do is listen and respond helpfully to others’ “elevator pitches” by suggesting how they can achieve their objectives (and asking more questions about their business). When the time is right, you’ll receive the opportunity to do business, or you’ll at least know which direction to take.
As you develop your speech, presentation and genuine networking skills, you’ll also pick up enough knowledge to handle the few situations where a brief “elevator pitch” might be reasonable.
Alternatively, you can take the escalator, or if you wish to be healthier, use the stairs.