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Extraordinary Elevator Pitches - Part I

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Extraordinary Elevator Pitches - Part I
Written By: Sandy Bjorgen, IMPROV-able Results ~ 11/9/2023


Do you have what’s called an “Elevator” Pitch to use when quickly introducing yourself and your business for both planned events and unexpected opportunities? Do you have more than one? You should have several of them for different occasions. But, you can use your core material to expand and contract around, depending on how much time you’re given. You need your brand to come through, but you don’t want people you know to get bored hearing the exact same wording each time.

At some events, you’ll be asked to give a one-breath self-introduction. That’s about 10 seconds. Sometimes you’ll be given 30 or 60 seconds, sometimes 2 minutes. So, you need to be prepared to turn on a dime and deliver anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes.

Often you’ll be timed, so it’s essential to be ready if you want to make a good impression. Even if you’re not timed, you should respect any limits stated and the time of others waiting to introduce themselves. People get bored or angry when someone drones on too long or hogs the floor.

Now, here’s the tricky part. You need to open with a hook. Unfortunately, many people begin by stating their personal and business name – or pointless greetings – or both. Don’t do it! You need to be more creative and interesting than that.

The Hook

What exactly is a hook and why should you use one to begin your pitch?

A hook is what draws people in to listen or read further, to be curious and want to know more. Think of the subject line in an email you receive. If it hooks you, you open it. If not, you’re willing to hit delete without opening. The hook is the lead that draws you to read the article, open the book, or tune in to listen to the news story. It’s what makes it hard to tune out.

Most people don’t start with a hook, and here’s how it goes wrong. Suppose someone starts off with, “I’m Susy Smith from ABC Mortgage Company.” She’ll lose much of her audience very quickly. Why? Because part of the audience is probably thinking, “I know her and what she does, I don’t hear anything new. I don’t have to listen.” Another part of her audience is thinking, “Oh, I have a mortgage,” or “Eww, I don’t want to think about mortgages yet,” or “I don’t need one.” So now a good share of the audience has pigeon-holed her and is checking their devices for calls or texting under the table!

Then there are the people who are busy thinking of what they’re going to say. Who’s left? Susy should have started with a hook! The better your hook, the more impossible it will be to tune you out.

It’s an important skill to be able to choose just a few words which quickly grab people’s attention.

Keep it short and simple.

Here’s an example of one of my many hooks: “I train people to think and speak under pressure.” Or, “I train businesspeople to think and speak under pressure: in front of an audience, on camera, or one-to-one.”

I used to say, “I train people to think and speak on their feet.” That didn’t get the reaction I’d hoped for. There was no sense of urgency in the response. But when I started adding the word “pressure,” things changed. People begin to think of the times when they feel under pressure to perform and stakes are higher. They feel emotion. They want to hear how I might help. They’re eager to have a conversation with me.

This pitch seeks out my target audience. I won’t be for everyone. That’s okay. If you don’t make clear what you do and who you help – and why – you’ll be invisible to your target.

So, how about you? Spend some time working up a hook. Think about what you do and how, but also why. Why did you get into this and why did you stay? What was the benefit to you? Who will you benefit? Try out your hook on people you know and some you don’t. If the reception is mediocre, make it better. Maybe find an audience that might need what you provide. Take your time on this. It’s a key to success. Next time we’ll look at the other elements of a great pitch.

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Sandy Bjorgen
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