31 January 2013

LIKE 42: How to do an Elevator Pitch

The prospect of an evening discussing Elevator Pitches did not really appeal to me that much but it had been some months since I had managed to get to a LIKE meeting that I made the effort anyway.

It proved to be a very wise decision.

Our guide for the evening was Suzanne Wheatley of Sue Hill Recruitment. And a good guide she was too as she took us on a well-prepared journey. She is standing at the right end of the bar while we are all sat eagerly at our tables.

One of the philosophies behind LIKE is that the sessions are interactive and Suzanne's session was more interactive than most. She peppered her talk with activities for us to do that reinforced the points she was making.

There are two parts to the Elevator Pitch, the message and the messenger. Both must be right to make the required impact.

The message should contain one decent fact and one insightful question. It should be something simple and something memorable. The messenger needs to convey the message well and to inspire confidence.

You are more important than your ideas so presentation really matters. Start with a good handshake and positive eye-contact, but do that without being oppressive. That was our first exercise of the evening and we practised handshaking and maintaining eye-contact. I think that I lost the staring competition.

Next we considered our voices. This means being conscious of the volume, length and pace. We may have a lot to say but if we say too much too quickly then the main message will get lost.

In particular, we need to pause to allow time for the words to sink in.

Our exercise for this was tongue-twisters which are easy to say if you get the pace right but which breakdown if we try to say them too quickly and sound dull if we say them too slowly. It is not an easy balancing act and practise helps.

The message needs to be concise and compelling. Think about the objective? Are you selling you, the bid, the company? How do you/your company solve problems/provide value? What is the key point? What do you want to happen next?

Be excited about your main message. If you are not excited then you cannot expect your target to be.

End with a question with a yes/no answer so that you have to get a definitive response, e.g. Can I call you next week to arrange a meeting?

For our final exercise we had to invent an elevator situation and write a pitch for it. Mine was meeting our new CEO and this is what I came up with. "Hi, I'm Matthew Rees. I am in the Business Consulting division currently working on the Weymouth Water account. They are spending $10m on a new customer billing system. I have 15 years experience of implementing billing systems in utilities and telcos world-wide. Is there a role for me on this project?"

The pitch is far from ideal, and that is part of the point. It shows that you need to spend time and effort in getting them right.

Suzanne's session was excellent. It delivered good information and real value while engaging us totally in the experience.

After the formalities came the food, drink and conversations that make LIKE sessions so enjoyable. I lingered for another couple of hours just mixing and being sociable. It was a great evening, and a useful one too.

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