You hop into an elevator with one other person and as you head up to your floor you begin a conversation. “What do you do,” the person next to you asks? And you have less than a minute to give a compelling summary of your business to a perfect stranger — a pitch so great that they will remember you, buy your services, or refer you to someone else. That’s the premise of the elevator speech, and while it may seem far-fetched, let me state right now that it happened just like that to me. About seven or eight years ago I hopped into the elevator, began a conversation, and still have a working relationship with the person I met that day.
While I may be one of the rare few who has actually used an elevator speech in an elevator, business people are often called upon to give a 30-second to two-minute summary of their business at networking events and business meetings, in fact anytime they meet someone who says, “What do you do?” they need to be prepared with a memorable response.
“Six Great Ways to Pitch Your Business and Yourself” will be the topic of the next networking lunch for the NJAWBO Central Region Wednesday, May 22 at 11:30 a.m. at Camillo’s Cafe, Princeton Shopping Center. Cost: $30. Make reservations nline at www.njawbocentral.org. Facilitator for the discussion will be Lisa Snyder of Silver Hoop Edge, a Lawrence-based website design business.
Snyder is no stranger to the elevator pitch. She’s been self-employed for more than a decade, first in the health insurance business (she calls herself a recovering insurance agent). She became interested in website design several years ago, working on the website for her agency, then volunteering to develop websites for her temple and several organizations to which she belonged. Within a few years, however, it began to take over her time and interest. She officially opened Silver Hoop Edge about a year ago.
Snyder received her bachelor’s degree in finance from Penn State University in 1987 and worked in banking and the paper industry before moving to insurance. Her father, she says, influenced her to own her own business. “He was always building something,” she says, including a claims reprocessing system for the health insurance industry, a business he later sold. He now teaches and is a venture capitalist. “He’s taught me to be on the cutting edge,” says Snyder.
Snyder has a lot of experience giving pitches and introductions for her business. She is a member of the Lawrenceville Toastmasters Club, a coordinator for the NJAWBO Central Region, and serves on the planning committee for the Second Annual Philly Women in Tech Summit as well as for the annual Project Graduation event at Lawrence High School.
Snyder developed her ideas for elevator speeches from the Daniel Pink book “To Sell is Human.” She heard Pink speak at a conference a few months ago. “The chapter about pitches struck since everyone in business needs to introduce themselves in a memorable and understandable way,” she says. “At our meeting I hope everyone who attends can walk away with one or two pitch options that they can use comfortably and effectively.”
A good elevator speech will have a broad appeal, since often your audience will have mixed levels of knowledge about you and your business. Snyder breaks the pitches into several types:
The One Word Pitch: Perhaps the most difficult pitch of all, but it can be the most memorable. If you can sum up your business in one word, people will remember you. A good example of this kind of pitch is the “plastics” speech given to Dustin Hoffman’s character in “The Graduate.”
The Twitter Pitch: Just slightly longer, try to describe your business in 140 characters. It’s tricky, according to Snyder. You’ll need to sit down at your computer and carefully plan it out. Then make sure you memorize it.
The Question Pitch: Open your speech with a question, usually about a common problem, then describe how you can help to solve it.
The Rhyming Pitch: If you are good with rhymes this can be fun. You’ll stand out from the crowd if you do it well, Snyder says.
The Subject Line Pitch: This is the “written pitch,” creating a great subject line for your E-mail that insures that people will be intrigued enough to open it and read it.
The Pixar Pitch: This pitch is based on the typical pattern of a Disney or Pixar movie. The formula is: “Once upon a time… Every Day… One day… Because of that….Because of that…..Until finally….”
Snyder was so intrigued by this style of pitch when she heard about it that she is creating one for herself. Here’s an early draft:
“Once upon a time business owners paid to have beautiful websites designed by professionals, but had a hard time changing even the smallest things. One day, 10 years ago, WordPress, an open source content management system, was created. Because of that, clients of Silver Hoop Edge found that it was easier to attract prospective clients with a website that reflected the current reality of their business, until finally, local businesses could feel less stress and more pride about using their website.”
A Pixar pitch, or any other format you choose, should give just enough information, but not too much, she explains. “Think of your pitch as a catalyst for conversation. You want to give just enough information that your listeners want to learn more and will approach you later with questions.”