4 Questions to Transform Your Elevator Pitch

CL_Elevator Post

This week, I’m preparing to give a one-minute elevator pitch.

This should be easy. I’ve done personal branding sessions. I’ve defined my unique value proposition. And I’ve drafted a pitch, complete with words like strategy and collaboration and results.

But somehow, those formal statements are things I would never say. They wouldn’t feel natural. They wouldn’t sound believable. They wouldn’t be interesting.

And as Tim David says in his HBR post, Your Elevator Pitch Needs an Elevator Pitch, they wouldn’t be authentic.

So what should I say? What should you say the next time you’re on an elevator or at conference and someone asks you to tell them what you do?

In one minute, you have about 120 words to pique someone’s interest and spark a longer conversation.

Being in the TV business, pivotal scenes or compelling narratives often come to mind. As The Wall Street Journal reported in a tribute to Mad Men, elevators have been described as a neutral zone where “time, physical space and tension get neatly compressed.”

So how can use use that to your advantage?

First, who are you pitching to? As with any communication, consider your audience. Who are they and what’s important to them? What problems are they trying to solve? And how can you help? Answering these questions will help you tailor your pitch.

Second, why are you pitching to them? What do you want to accomplish? Your general objective should be to generate interest in a follow-up conversation, not to close a sale or land a job. Think of your elevator pitch as opening the door to more dialogue.

Third, what do you want them to know about you? If the person were to remember just one thing about you, what would you want it to be? Focus on that area and edit out everything else.

Fourth, how can you say it authentically? Translate corporate jargon into real words that anyone could understand. Could your parents understand it? How about a kindergartner?

Here’s the start of mine for this moment in time:

Hi, I’m Caroline Leach. I help people learn to love change. Whether it’s winning customer loyalty, working in new ways or creating a culture of volunteerism, I use communication to lead change. And involving people makes them more excited about the future. 

Best-selling author Daniel Pink has great ideas about creating an elevator pitch for our digital world. One is having a one-word pitch. If, according to Pink, Google equals search and MasterCard equals priceless, what one word defines you?

I chose “transform.” I also considered “change.” But while many people are inspired by the idea of transformation and its possibilities for reinvention and growth, people resist change, as Rosabeth Moss Kanter summarizes so well on ten different levels.

People don’t always like to change. But they would eagerly transform their lives. And communication can connect the two in a powerful way that ultimately leads to sustainable change.

Pink also suggests summing up your pitch in a tweet. In 140 characters or less, what’s your Twitter pitch?

My tweet is I help people learn to love change.

And that’s what I’m exploring right now in my work and in this blog. And as that changes and evolves, so will my elevator pitch.


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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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