Elevator Pitch

Mar 7th, 2010 | By | Category: abundance, Career advice, career challenges, challenges, mentor, personality, success

Opportunity often appears at the worst times and in the strangest places.  Sometimes they are disguised and hard to recognize.  For example, one day I got on the elevator at work to go down from the seventh floor for lunch.  The car was empty and I thought I might have a chance for a non-stop express ride.  Just before the doors closed the Office Chief stepped into the car.  He said hello, and before I could respond he asked, “What are you working on?”  It was probably just a social gesture, but I saw it as an opportunity.  Here was a chance to leapfrog three layers of management and speak directly to the person who held the reins of power.  I probably had less than a minute, and was totally unprepared.  I had learned the hard way not to respond with a negative reply, such as, not much, or nothing.  It is not smart to tell upper management that you are not doing anything productive.   On the other hand I was just doing routine design reviews.  Although the work was important to our function, it was routine and there was nothing notable about it.   I needed to say something, and for some reason, I felt like stepping out of the box and trying something different.

There was not a lot of time. I am sure that all he was expecting was to exchange greetings.  I am sure he had no real interest in what I was working on; he was just being sociable.  Upper management often uses questions like that as a preemptive defensive measure to deflect conversation.  Ask a general question and by the time the answer comes back it is time to step off the elevator.  Usually a safe answer for the employee was to mention the general category, nothing specific that would lead to more questions.  That is the employee’s defensive measure, mentioning something general that sounds good and tells nothing.  Since I was bored with my job and really wanted to move into something new, I needed something to catch the Office Chief’s interest without stepping out of bounds.

The words started coming out of my mouth before I even had formed my thoughts.  A very scary and dangerous thing to do, but I related some ideas I had on a project I was interested in, but not working on.  There was little time so there was no time to discuss details, just an overview of what I thought.  I know I caught him by surprise and I finished as the elevator doors opened, and we parted ways.  I am not sure that what I said had any real effect, but I did end up working on that project a while later, which lead to a promotion.  I think the important thing that I learned that day was to be better prepared to take advantage of opportunities and to recognize them when they occur.  I started paying more attention to elevator conversations, and learned a lot about the art of making use of a very short amount of time.  It actually has a name, the “Elevator Pitch.”

To use the “Elevator Pitch” effectively you have to be prepared.  Just like preparing for an interview, you should have the major points you want to cover.  Then develop a clear, concise, and convincing message that you can deliver in 30 seconds or less.  Give it a try in front of the mirror a few times.  It is more difficult than you think, but once you learn the technique it really comes in handy when an unexpected opportunity arises.

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