Going Down?: Why The Elevator Pitch is an Occupational Dinosaur, and What Should Replace It

In any Networking 101 discussion, the topic of the Elevator Pitch inevitably comes up. Its name derives from an old-fashioned metaphor that places you on an elevator when an executive big-wig steps through the doors and shows potential interest in you. You then have the length of the elevator ride (or about 15 seconds) to make the impression you’ll need to enter into their circle or perhaps get hired. Sounds like it’s straight out of the movies, and in fact, that’s pretty much where it should remain.

Think about it: The formula of “I’m Ted Smith, and I work in the Audit Department at the PDQ Accounting firm” doesn’t really say anything (except to another auditor) about what you do. Second, it doesn’t communicate what sets you apart in your field. Thirdly, it shifts the energy from a free-flow conversation to a stilted and forced exchange of information. The fact is, there are countless additional flaws in the elevator approach to getting noticed; The good news is there’s strong potential to improve upon it. Here is the short list of factors to consider when speaking about “what you do”.

Save Your Breadth
Before you attempt to cozy up to the person, it’s smart to get a sense of who they really are. Don’t be automatically swayed by their title. Determine instead if this is a person you truly WANT to be involved with, and decide from there what the conversation should entail. Power and height on the chain of command doesn’t automatically imply a good fit.

Redirect the ConversationMcGladrey Folks
It’s human nature to enjoy talking about ourselves. Before you offer up any details about yourself, ask the person what they do. After they lay it all out for you, position what you do to fit in with their schematics. They’ll know only what they need to know about your work, and it may mark the beginning of a lucrative collaboration.

Have Some Fun With It
If someone asks you what you do first, make the response fun. Instead of focusing on your title and other formalities, mention the benefits you bring to the people you service. For example, as a tax accountant, your response can amount to “I assist my clients in navigating the choppy waters of tax code, preferably over a nice glass of Pinot Noir”. When I’m speaking with my WAC hat on, I’ll start with something like “I help companies realize greater profits, and to attract and retain top talent.” It gives compelling insight without pigeonholing my occupation.

49Give Them the “Why”, Not the “What”
Passion is engaging, job title is boring. If you tell someone why you do what you do, they are more inclined to see you as a thinker, a leader, and a success. Be creative in describing why you’ve taken on the career you’re in, and memorize a few different versions of your pitch to alternate. Great connections will come your way!

My guest Michael Roderick and I speak about Elevator Pitches as well as all other aspects of Working a Room in January’s Video Library release. Keep an ear out for various excerpts.