By Janine Lazarus

They say a true Parisian woman can size you up from your head to your shoes and back up again in milliseconds, so fast that most people won’t even notice ‘the look’.

If judgment calls are made just by passing someone in the street, imagine the reaction to a clumsy elevator pitch.

Cue the inevitable eye roll, an audible sigh and the sudden necessity to check for messages on your mobile phone. If you can’t serve up a simple and powerful representation of who you are when meeting potential clients or networking, you might as well stay in bed.

The one thing often overlooked is how valuable an elevator pitch can be as an internal focal point, or an anchor point to pull you back in. Anyone who is that clear on who they are and what they do in life is a winner.

No matter what you do for a living or whether you like it or not, you’re always selling your products, services and your ideas in some way. You’re selling yourself.

If there’s one thing I’m adept at, it’s speaking off the cuff. But thinking on my feet is what I do for a living. It’s my comfort zone. I’ve been doing this for decades and have had a lifetime of preparation.

And I always show up, flaws and all.

There have been times that I’ve said or done the wrong thing, but the show must go on. I’m fallible, just like everyone else. Being able to laugh about a mistake I’ve made means accepting the lesson behind it.

I’ve worked with enough clients to know that most of them are simply too close to their idea, product or business to produce a perfect pitch without rambling incoherently. They over rehearse, forget their key messages and lose their authenticity.

The result: A message that misses its mark and an entirely disengaged audience. In short, a lost opportunity.

I’ve been privileged to work with executives who are great leaders with incredible vision, but many of them struggle to captivate their audience from the get-go. Even they battle to wing it.

So let me jump right in with what I think is the easiest and most efficient way to create an elevator pitch to spark interest and get buy in. Take what you like and put a personal spin on it.

The formula is simple. You have about 30 seconds or less to wow them.

Step 1:

I am a (list what you are)

Step 2:

Helping (list who you help)

Step 3:

One of my greatest passions is (list your passions here)

Step 4:

I’ve been fortunate to (list some of the biggest problems you’ve solved or some of your greatest accomplishments).
I call this the money piece.

Step 5:

Have you ever? (list your question)

So let me try it for size.

I am a Specialist Media and Communications Trainer.

As a former hard news journalist, I have the critical insight necessary to help multinationals, big corporates, government departments and non-profit organisations to deftly navigate their way around thorny issues in the public space.

One of my greatest passions is to equip clients with the ability to land short and simple messages that resonate. I call it definitive messaging.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the biggest brands both locally and internationally, facing everything from financial mismanagement to reputational issues.

Have you ever been faced with an impending crisis and felt ill equipped to be in the media hot seat?

There. 40 seconds. I’ve just timed myself. If I shave off 10 seconds, I’d be on the button.

If your audience keeps listening, allow room for dialogue. Most people don’t like to be talked at.

You could use the time to tell them a short story. People love a story because it’s engaging. But you need a story your audience can identify with, one with which they feel emotionally connected.

If your story grabs attention and piques interest, it will ignite a two-sided conversation. Your goal is to keep the momentum going and for your audience to take action.

Now for more tips:
  • Don’t use too much business jargon.
  • Stick to the facts. Self-indulgence is off putting.
  • Cross out the tired cliches and catch phrases.
  • Crystalise your idea in your mind so you’re absolutely sure you know what you’re talking about.
  • Be willing to pivot and adjust your pitch to different audiences.
  • Inject energy and passion into your pitch.
  • And, most importantly, do it in the way you speak.

Now get into that elevator and head for the top floor!