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The 60 Second Elevator Pitch Part 1

The 60 Second Elevator Pitch: An Essential Tool

(Part 1 of a two-part series)

By Elizabeth Sagermann

First impressions are lasting. How many times has your first interaction with someone stayed with you long after parting? When the encounter goes well, you're left wanting more and ready to further explore a service or organization. But in many instances, a negative impression leaves you confused, annoyed, and turned off for good. All business owners should be able to make a great first impression clearly and succinctly—it's essential to growing your network and your business.

time hour glass elevator pitchA concise, snappy one-minute explanation of yourself and what you offer is a vital tool.  

The concept of the 'elevator pitch' has been around for many years.

Imagine that you step into an elevator where the ride lasts just one minute, and there next to you stands someone that you have desperately been trying to connect with. It's a golden opportunity! You now have that one very precious minute to tell them who you are, what you do and what you can do for them. Sounds easy? To quote Mark Twain, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." In other words, it takes time and thought to plan out what you want to convey in a short 200 words.

If you want some inspiration, tune in to reality shows like CBC's Dragon's Den or the American version Shark Tank. Listen closely as the inventors and entrepreneurs introduce themselves. In essence, they have prepared elevator pitches that try to capture the attention of wealthy potential investors. Watch what happens when their messages aren't succinct or clear: the investors lose interest quickly.

There are many approaches to this exercise, but I happen to like Harvard Business School's guide, "7 Steps for Writing a Powerful Elevator Pitch." Each of the steps provides you with a vigorous mental workout as you think about who you are, what you do and how you communicate—all important steps in clarifying your goal. When you're ready to start, grab a pencil, a blank sheet of paper and find a quiet spot that allows you to think.

Step 1:

Define who you are. Write one sentence about who you are. Keep this simple. You may be very tempted to get into details, but you will have other opportunities in the subsequent steps to enhance yourself. An opener is more powerful when short and sweet. 

Some examples:

"I am a small business owner who consults other small business owners."

"I am an IT consultant, with a strong expertise in the area of computers, software, and networking."

Step 2:

Describe what you do. Use your product/service listing as a guide and write one or two sentences about what you do every day in your business or profession.   What is it that you do best? How can you help clients? What results can you provide to your customers?

Some examples:

"I consult time-challenged business owners on how to build teams, delegate effectively and ultimately become more productive and profitable."

"I offer technical expertise to assist companies with their IT challenges and ensure that they are up-to-date and trained on the latest computer technology. I assist clients with problem solving when issues arise as well as train staff on new programs and applications as required."

Step 3:

Identify your real clients/customers. Describe your target audience.. Who are they? Who can you help the most?   Who do you especially want to work with?

Some examples:

"My clients are busy and go-getting small business owners who struggle to accomplish everything they want to accomplish. My clients understand the value of a team and are ready to learn how to delegate, but find it challenging to let go of their quest for perfection. My clients also find it difficult to find quality team members and commit to creating a team that can thrive even without them being hands-on."

"My clients are business owners who do not have regular IT support on staff, but have several computers on site and require assistance in ensuring that all systems are functioning, communicating with one another, and secure. My clients want to be up on the latest technology, ensuring that they are in sync with their customers and able to meet their demands in a timely manner."

These first three steps should give you lots to think about and to work through. Remember, less is more. You're taking the elevator, not the stairs. Happy writing and stay tuned for part 2 in the next issue of Flourish.

Elizabeth Sagermann is the owner of her own company, ERS Consulting.

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