Image by clearviewstock (Philip Morley)
We’ve all heard of the ‘elevator pitch’, right? And we’re all way too cool for school to be bothered doing anything quite so, well, ‘salesy’ (ew!) Oh grow up. Pssst: if you’re doing a presentation, on some level, at some point, with some people, you’re going to be selling – so get over it. Master the art of the elevator pitch and you’ll give your presentation skills an edge they’ve probably lacked.
- You’ll identify WIIFM
- You’ll be much more succinct
- You’ll get focused
- You’ll be able to rehearse it
- You’ll have something to say
It’s been my observation that all too often, too much preparation is all about the presenter and nowhere near enough about the audience. The best presenters always create a clear picture of their audience, and identify what they need and want from the presentation. Why should these people see and hear your presentation? Put yourself in an audience member’s shoes and ask, “What’s in it for me?” Crafting an elevator pitch, as the name suggests, always has a hook for the recipient – the figurative CEO in the elevator whom your pitch has precisely 60 seconds to convince that setting up a meeting with you is a smart move. So as you craft your very short pitch and incorporate what’s in it for your audience, you’ll be doing essential preparation.
Once you’ve got your draft elevator pitch, read it aloud whilst timing it on your smartphone. If it’s over 60 seconds long (average elevator journey time to C-suite), you have some editing to do – just speaking more quickly will only confuse. Fillet the fluff and get to the point. 5 key points might just squeeze in; 3 would be better.
Once you’ve got a succinct and audience-focused elevator pitch, you’ll be much better placed to create a presentation that does precisely what it needs to – and no more. If you’ve already created your presentation, check through it with your elevator pitch in view and weigh up each element against how well it aligns with your 60-second pitch. Anything vague or extraneous can be edited out, or kept for the handout if it’s back up information.
Ideally you will be able to rehearse your entire presentation three times – on your feet and out loud. Why? Because you are going to be speaking out loud and standing up, so that’s exactly what you need to practise – as opposed to sitting, staring at your screen, muttering frantically. Even better, record your rehearsal on your smartphone and play it back (well, shouldn’t you be the first person to see what you’re like?) As part of your practice, rehearse your elevator pitch several times over so that it’s completely fluent. And if time has flown and the team hasn’t done a full dress rehearsal, be sure to rehearse your elevator pitch – it will take just a few minutes.
Now you don’t have to cling to the podium / table / coffee pot / your laptop during those seemingly century-long minutes when your audience walks into the room, and you wait for the stragglers, your colleagues, the boss and the terminally tardy. You’ll be able to walk round and put your audience and yourself at ease, and you won’t be stuck for words because at that point your elevator pitch is what they need to hear.
You may also find this blog post useful: DOs and DON’Ts for visual aids
Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’, available now at bookstores and on Amazon.