Before I knew that Winter would put the Commonwealth of Kentucky under a state of emergency and cancel a whole week of classes at Morehead State University, I planned to have my students work on elevator pitches. We will still do that next week, but as I have some time on my hands and the house to myself for this first time in a week, I am thinking about my own elevator pitch and why it is so important to have one for yourself as well as your important projects.
Alyssa Gregory writes in “Why You Need A Powerful Elevator Pitch” that you never get a second chance to make a great first impression. This is truly one of the most powerful reasons for crafting an elevator pitch. Our brains determine that first impression within seconds of meeting someone. We need to carefully prepare ourselves to deliver both a powerful verbal message and effective nonverbal message.
However, Gregory gives us another even more powerful reason to think about elevator pitches:
The process of creating an elevator pitch is an exercise in focus and self-analysis. Even if you use it infrequently, developing it can make you think about who you are, what you do, and what you want others to know about you in the simplest of terms. This can be an opportunity to look back at your accomplishments and ahead to your goals, keeping you centered on what you’re trying to achieve by networking in the first place.
As I was preparing my elevator pitch lesson, I remembered how I used to prepare elevator pitches for the novels I was writing and how the process helped me focus on the essential story. Although I no longer write fiction, I continue to use a similar process for writing grant proposals and project proposals (which is what I intend my students to do). Alyssa Gregory’s description of the elevator pitch writing process as “an exercise in focus and self-analysis” is spot on. I know from my own experience that creating an elevator pitch really can keep you centered. As Michael Hyatt explains, crafting a good elevator pitch forces you to achieve clarity.
Crafting a good elevator speech is about more than understanding yourself (or your product), it is also about understanding your audience. My students have spent the first weeks of the semester thinking about their goals, but as they begin to plan their projects for the semester I want them to really think about their rhetorical context. The two most common pieces of advice about preparing elevator pitches are to know your audience and to know yourself (or your product or company). Steve Yastrow argues that you must get to know your audience and understand the specific needs of that audience before you can craft the perfect response to those needs. This means doing your homework. My students’ previous assignment (to build a Personal Learning Network) asked them to do just that and I expect we will see how well they understand their audience when they begin crafting their elevator pitches. In fact, Hyatt points out that crafting a good elevator pitch can help you grow your PLN and find people to help you with your idea and achieve your goals.
There are three good reasons for developing an elevator pitch: understanding your product whether it is yourself, your company or a product; understanding your audience; and understanding your partners and inspirations. Elevator pitches are useful for personal meetings whether they are sales meetings or networking occasions, but they are also useful for social media bios and abstracts. How can you or do you use the elevator pitch? I think it is time that I started practicing what I preach and get to work on my own elevator pitch. How about you? Do you have an elevator pitch? How can crafting elevator pitches be useful for your students?