Thursday, December 14, 2006

Death to the Elevator Speech

I just finished listening to the latest tele-seminar in the Business Basecamp 2006 series that I've been blogging about and hate to say it, but Elevator Speech - the bell tolls for thee!

Penny Power, in her seminar on Tapping the Full Power of Social Networking, gave her prediction of the demise of the elevator speech - that quick 30 second soundbite you create to rattle off to anyone you think wants to hear it. It usually comes right after the question "What do you do?" is asked. Michael Port, who I've written extensively about, has called for the elimination of the elevator speech, and if I'm not mistaken, Dave Lakhani also indicated he wouldn't be all that sad if it went away.

Why are all these people so down on the elevator speech? It's not that they think speaking about who you are and what you do doesn't hold any value. I think they just feel that this "in your face" way of marketing is getting old and something new has to be done.

I agree. When I'm out speaking with people in networking situations, I feel like a used car salesman when I pitch my business. I'm at ease when I have a meaningful conversation with the other person. That's what Port is pushing all service professionals toward - having meaningful conversations with perspective clients. Power, Port and Lakhani all have one thing in common and that is developing a brand for yourself.

It breaks down to what you project to others:

  • Who are you and what do you do?
  • What values do you hold dear?
  • What can you serve and contribute to others?
  • What is the feeling or impression you leave behind after the work is done?
Having that meaningful conversation can take place as long as you can identify the type of networking situation you are in and know the appropriate form of interaction during each situation. The different type of situations are:
  • 1 to 1 - direct outreach to an individual you have something in common with. Think of it as "I've got chocolate and you've got peanut butter - we can create something good if we work together."
  • 1 to few - this is being part of clubs and organizations like TVCNet. The person across the table from you may not be a direct business contact, but they may know someone who could use your services. Interact like a detective. Ask lots of questions and connect the dots.
  • 1 to many - this is like blogging and taking advantage of new media. These are ways to broadcast your opinions and ideas so others can see and get a sense of who you are. Best way to interact is to contribute to the conversation taking place in a meaningful manner.
I'm not necessarily down on elevator speeches. A fellow TVCNet member has approached me with a presentation topic on how to effectively create one for a future program and I think it is still very relevant. Maybe what we need is to have a paradigm shift on the subject move toward creating meaningful conversations.


Peggy M. Jordan said...

Good post. I agree in once sense, in fact my whole approach as a content writer is to help people develop ways to describe what they do that DON'T like a used-car salesman's pitch.

But on the other hand, let's not throw the fresh coffee out with the used-up grounds. No matter what kind of networking we do, we need to have the words to introduce ourselves comfortably and confidently and try to connect with key people. I think it's a matter of semantics; what I've been calling an elevator pitch looks and sounds very much like the kind of meaningful conversation model your experts are suggesting.

The bottom line is that we all need to have solid, prepared answers for questions like, "What do you do?" and "Why would anyone hire somebody to do that?" whether those questions come up at the gym or a Chamber of Commerce mixer or the checkout line at Costco or your new boyfriend's parents' dinner party.

Thanks for the insights, Justin.

Justin Foster said...

I agree with the premise that the elevator pitch is dead. Unless the ride is only 1 or 2 stories. There are a plethora of reasons for this - with the top two being 1) In a commoditized society, most of don't like being "sold", and 2) We want information, not a pitch.

We teach our clients to focus on "Silver Bullets" - the one-sentence answer to "Why Should I buy from you?".