“If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if an hour, I am ready now.” –Woodrow Wilson
The reason that this particular quote of Wilson’s is cited so often is that it rings true. With some tight-lipped exceptions, the spoken word tends to act like water: it fills any available vessel. In other words, if you have an hour, you talk for an hour. That’s fine if you have an hour, but often your most effective business presentations are informal, sans PowerPoint, and don’t even happen inside an office. In these situations, you need to make every word and every second count.Some in modern business call the art of these quickie presentations elevator pitches. Meaning that what you say can only be as long as the length of ride in an elevator. That’s not much time and as John Hoult wrote in Fast Company “assume short buildings.”
If you can get your pitch down to one minute, you’re in the game. Short, sweet, to the point, and catchy is the name of the game. Having a tag line, solving a problem, including a call to action, and so forth are important. However, to distill your message to its most basic evidence you want to tell your audience two things:
1. What’s the opportunity?
2. Why they should care
All the other stuff flows from those two points. The goal of your elevator pitch isn’t to sign a contract before the doors open or to explain your business model in detail. The goal is to get them interested enough in your company’s product or service that when the door opens, they say something like this:
* Here’s my card; call me to talk about this more
* Can I have your card? I want to know more
* Can you come with me right now? I want to keep talking about this
The elevator pitch is bait and you want them to take the bait, but only so that they’ll swallow your hook. Your bait must be irresistible, but you’ve also need to cast deftly. The only was to do that is practice, practice, practice. When you’ve got your elevator pitch ingrained to the muscle memory level, you won’t flinch when you find yourself in the elevator with the biggest, most intimidating fish you can imagine catching.