The five year feud between my wife and I about the tiny space in the freezer occupied by my fishing bait is over. I now have a midget freezer in the shed – next to my bed. The bed is next to my desk and filing cabinet, their current position the result of another feud. Same woman, different feud.
Having to cram most of one’s living and office space into a rusty tin shed is not all sunshine mixed in a stainless steel bowl. It has its challenges. For example, the shredder that used to live beside my desk now shares my bed … which partly explains what the neighbours now refer to as the ‘3.00 am shred in the shed incident’. It also explains my recent reconstructive surgery.
Because of the unusual position I now find myself in, I have taken to targetting clients in the gardening and hardware business, working on the assumption they may be impressed with the decor of my new ‘office’. With this in mind, I am developing my ‘shed pitch’. This will be shorter than an elevator pitch, as I fully expect some prospects – especially the claustrophobic ones – to exit the shed sooner than they would an elevator.
Now this leads me to the part of this post which self-appointed social media experts – of which there is no shortage – refer to as ‘valuable content’.
(Serious bit –>) There’s every chance the pitch you need in business is of the elevator rather than shed variety. So here is my view on the matter. I believe the purpose of an elevator pitch is to quickly create some intrigue about your job or business, to the point where the listener is thinking, “Tell me more”. Your brief, one-way pitch should rapidly evolve into a two-way conversation. Unless you’re an undertaker, try to keep it quirky, light and airy, and drip feed into the conversation catchy, memorable phrases that invite questions or comments from the other person. Also, it’s useful if you can ask them a question or two yourself, to see if they relate to the problem for which you have a solution.
The aim of an elevator pitch is not to make a sale or get an appointment; it’s just to get the listener to conclude that you’re a reasonable human being who seems to know something that may be useful, if not to them, perhaps to someone they know.
As an example, here’s the first part of my own elevator pitch:
“I stop people falling asleep at conferences and events.” (This generally elicits an understanding smile.) “I work as a Hoax Speaker, MC and Corporate Comedian, and turn ho-hum into ha-ha at product launches, awards dinners, VIP client functions and so on. Ever been to a corporate function that was a bit ho-hum?”
The aim of such a pitch is to quickly get to a point where you’re not talking AT them, but conversing WITH them. It’s all about beginning a relationship, and the best way to do that is when you’re both on common ground. (In my case the common ground is shared feelings about boring corporate events that put you to sleep.) So build your pitch around common feelings we all share; eg frustration, stress, hope, ambition, etc. It’s feelings that connect people, not facts.
Another suggestion: don’t start by saying what you ARE, say what you DO, and say it in a quirky way that also weaves in the benefit your work activity delivers. Definitely don’t say something that will have them running for the exit. For example, if you are an accountant and you say, ‘I am an accountant’, where do you think that will lead? What response will it evoke in listeners? Many may think, ‘Oh, another bean counter’. Suspecting this may be the perception of the listener, what could you say instead? A little self-deprecating humour wouldn’t hurt.
Now I’m not suggesting that you (or an accountant) should use, word for word, the strange statements mentioned below, but I am urging you, in the privacy of your own mind (or shed), to explore all sorts of unusual ways of saying things about your job role; there’s every chance the quirkiness will provoke a new and interesting way of describing it.
Seriously quirky accountant elevator bits, to stimulate further thinking:
“I count beans. And when I find a magic bean, I help my client plant it.”
“Amongst my friends, I drew the short straw and had to study accountancy. I took one for the team.”
“You know how, when people go to parties, one is always the designated driver? Well, I was the designated accountant. If ever there was a pretty girl at a party who was upset because of a tax problem, who do you think was ready to provide comfort … and advice … and breakfast?”
“When I was at school, I decided to study accountancy – I did it for a dare. It was that type of school. None of our teachers ever said, ‘Dare to Dream’ – it was more like, ‘Dare to Get Enough Sleep’. Dreaming was actively discouraged. At this school, we didn’t aim too high, like trying to climb Everest. Accountancy is safer than mountain climbing – no accountant ever had to cut off his own arm just because he couldn’t balance the books.”
Whatever business you’re in, play with the crazy thoughts as well as the sensible ones. The end result will be an elevator pitch that’s more engaging than it could have been, and which you’re still comfortable with.
Oh, I almost forgot, here’s some more ‘valuable content’ (or the first bit, in case you didn’t find any in the previous section): Harvard Business School has a free online Elevator Pitch Builder. Check it out.
If you need me, I’ll be in the shed.
Until next time, stay quirky. Seriously.