The Elevator Pitch and Why it Needs to Go

I can hear the outraged cries already:

"What's wrong with you!"

"Everyone needs to be able to share their story!"

"Pitching is vital to marketing yourself!"

And so on and so forth. So let me make something clear right off the bat; I am not saying we should stop sharing with individuals quickly and simply about who we are and what we do. Not saying that at all. 

Being able to communicate with others in a timely and organized fashion about the work you do shows professionalism, passion, and an understanding of the value of peoples' time. That is important.

What I am saying is that the days of the traditional 30-second explanation of your work without consideration for context, venue, personality, and the interests of the other party has long outlived its time.

We have better approaches to marketing ourselves.

Rather than explaining all the reasons I am not the biggest fan of the elevator pitch, I'd rather take a moment to share with you a few ideas about what you should include in your initial "pitch" to others.

  1. Brief explanation of what you do. And I mean brief. "I am an employee engagement consultant." The end. If people are interested in what that means, they can ask more questions. If they aren't, you know within 2 seconds whether this interaction is going to be valuable to you. 
  2. Ask Questions. That's right; ask questions about the other person. Rather than taking that time you have to pitch yourself and your desires, take those 30 seconds to ask a question or two of the person you are talking with. You will have the chance to learn whether this individual might be a good fit for you, and do it while making them feel valued and connected to you.
  3. Read the room. Did people come to this event to hear hard sells? Or is this intended as a space for people to interact more casually without having to "deal" with people trying to get something from them? Reading the room will prevent you from becoming that person everyone avoids at worst or that person who is mildly awkward at best. Neither situation is good for business.
  4. Take time. I have heard from a great deal of networking professionals about how important it is to have incredibly short conversations and move immediately on to the next person in the room. There is a place for that, for sure. But I also see great value in taking the 5 or 10 or even 15 minutes it can take to develop rapport with someone that can lead to a coffee invitation, an agreement to attend another event together, or something similar. Networking with speed and numbers in mind will gain you surface connections, which might be just what you need. But networking with relationships and developing those in mind will lead to deeper connections that can often be more valuable.

What do you think? Ditch the elevator pitch?