When I first started working, I managed an internal staff bulletin that featured new team members. The section was called “30 seconds in the lift with …” and I literally had to get in an lift with my new colleague, and ask them brief questions about their background. It was interesting to see the new recruits answer so quickly and succinctly. By the time the 30 seconds was over, I had in hand a mini-biography of them. Talk about time efficiency.
A couple of years later when I started my communications and marketing consultancy, I was often in the spotlight, in what business people like to call a “30-second lift pitch”. At networking events, I had to provide a brief background about what I do in a matter of seconds. Those few seconds, however, are extremely crucial. You never know who the person in front of you could turn out to be.
They could be your next potential client, or someone you could work on an exciting project with.
An lift pitch is a 30-second summary to the question: “what do you do?”
I used to feel reluctant to answer that question, not because I did not want to, but because I didn’t think I could summarise it in 30 seconds. However, with time I realised how fruitful those few moments could be for my business.
I have seen lift pitches go down the drain because business owners did not describe their businesses in the right way. In some cases, I’ve had to pitch for myself and a friend, because I did not want her to miss a great opportunity or fail to identify her business properly.
The reason many lift pitches do not work in the best interest of the business owner is because they describe exactly what they do. In other words, they state what their job title is such as: “I’m a fashion designer and I started my line two years ago”.
How does that make you stand out from the crowd? With so many designers out there, a better pitch would be: “I’m a fashion designer specialising in costume design, one of the few in the country, and theatres X, Y, and Z are my clients.”
This would not only will spike someone’s interest, but could also land you an opportunity. It would also show how passionate you are about what you do.
So how could you deliver an interesting lift pitch?
Start with an interesting factoid: you could say something along the lines of: “So you know the number of PR agencies run by Emiratis is X?” Or, if you are a landscape architect, you could say: “There are only seven landscape architect companies in Abu Dhabi — can you believe that?”
The next step is to follow up with what you or your company actually does. To continue with the example above, you could say: “We specialise not only in landscape architecture and design, but we are also the sole provider of furniture X that is made entirely of recyclable materials.”
The last and final stage would be to highlight what makes you different to other providers out there. What is your competitive advantage? Why would anyone be interested in what you have to offer?
Using the same example again, your pitch would sound like this: “There are only seven landscape design companies in Abu Dhabi, can you believe that? We specialise not only in landscape architecture and design, but we are also the sole provider of furniture X that is made entirely of recyclable material, which is sustainable to Abu Dhabi’s environment. Also, we provide corporate rates with a discount of up to 30 per cent, and a complimentary garden design is offered with each furniture set bought.”
This is how simple a pitch can be. Practice your pitch a few times, and you will be more than ready to answer the “What do you do?” question. In fact, you might be even look forward to it.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.
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