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You pull into the parking lot where the networking event is being held. Am I too early? Will I see anyone I know? Is this really going to be worth me having to record This is Us? You drove all the way there though, so you may as well go for it now.

You take a deep breath, grab a stack of business cards, and pray that your heel won’t break in the parking lot on the way in. You know what comes next… you walk into the loud room and see people in groups of 2 or 3 engaged in conversation. You do a quick scan for someone standing solo to make eye contact with. After awkwardly walking in a semi-circle until you find someone you have found your first test-case.

“Hi, I’m Sandra” she says.

“Hi, I’m Ashley” you enthusiastically reply as you shake hands.

“So, what do you do?”

Uh-oh. You start to stumble over your words to explain what you do and can tell by the expression on Sandra’s face that she was lost about three words in. You may as well have had a mouthful of food because nothing you just said made any sense. You try to weave in something creative, and instead you’re heading down a rabbit hole further and further from what you actually do. You quickly turn the conversation back to what she does.

Been there? (We all have.) You work up the courage to network, make new connections and walk into an event solo (which, props to those of you that don’t insist on a sidekick; don’t bring a crutch or you’ll never learn to walk on your own), but you never really stopped to evaluate your elevator pitch. It’s never been perfected or tested. You know what you do, so shouldn’t it just roll off your tongue? The problem is – it never does in those situations. It doesn’t come out with the captivating attention you hope to garner.

Plain and simple: the elevator pitch is something you need to have on-call and ready to go.

Grab a sheet of paper and let’s work through 3 easy steps to help you craft your hella-intriguing elevator pitch.

  1. What problem do you solve? The best brands and marketing are those that solve our problem (even the ones we didn’t know we had). Sometimes the catch is that YOU have to be the one to tell your audience what the problem is. When Uber came out, they marketed that “taxi cabs suck”. Yes. That’s really what they said. We may not have consciously thought about this beforehand, but they were right, weren’t they? Hailing a cab, trying to get one over the other guy down the road waving at him, paying cash, dirty seats, watching the fare move faster than your heartbeat. Yes, Uber’s right. They suck. Do you see what they did though? They promoted the problem and it got our attention. That marketing is essentially their elevator pitch. Begin to list out the problems you solve. What do you do better than your competition? What drives your customer to buy your product or service? Are you able to reference any eye-brow raising statistics that would catch someone’s attention?
  2. Why do you do this? The WHY. This is what makes people remember you. This is where your personality can shine through. Is there a story to how you came into your industry, or why you started your company? What drove you to get started, or what keeps you there? For many of us, there’s a passion that drives us, and that’s what you want to pull out into your elevator pitch.
  3. Clarify what you do, or what you offer. Layman’s terms. If you were to describe this to my Fifth grader, she’d need to understand what you do. Steer clear of the jargon, the acronyms and the fancy titles. Make me understand what you truly do or offer.

These 3 steps are intended to get you out of the boring one-liner that doesn’t differentiate you from any of your competition. The concept of an elevator pitch is to pique the interest of the other person to where they want to know more. There’s no perfect length or script. You want a condensed version that you could truly offer up to someone on a short 20-second elevator ride, or that you could elaborate on further if you find yourself in conversation at an event. The bottom line is that you want to stand out. If someone meets 15-20 people at an event, will they remember you? Did you tell a story or give a staggering statistic that they just cannot shake from their mind? Don’t worry about conforming to society’s expectations of a structured elevator pitch. Instead, craft it with your personality and make it resonate with the person you’re talking to.

Practice it with anyone willing to listen. My niche might not include middle-aged men, but if they ask what I do it gives me a chance to test it out. Not for their sake, but for my own (unbeknownst to them). Read through what you jotted down earlier and test a few combinations out until you find something that really flows well.

Bonus Tip: End your elevator pitch with an open-ended question, if possible. This keeps the conversation going and allows you to go into further detail as to what you offer.

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