You are standing in a lobby pondering over your current major challenge. You are worrying about how you will fund that critical project which will make the difference between remaining a small business and moving up into the big time to run with major players.
It’s a multiple storey building and you are on the top floor. You briefly wonder how it would be if you simply stepped off the ledge through that big window and were freefalling through the sky.
(Come now, doesn’t everyone do this when they are looking out of a high rise window?) Suddenly your thoughts are interrupted by a loud ding as the elevator finally arrives and the doors open.
And, who should be standing there, but your ideal investor! You recognise that this is the opportunity of a lifetime, but have only 60 seconds to grab his attention and ensure he takes a serious interest in you and your project. What will you do?
In reality the situation painted here seldom happens quite like that. However, the fact that opportunities will present where we least expect them is all too real. The important thing is to be ready for them.
To begin with, I guess this is one of the reasons why they say you should always dress well for work.
Communication skills practitioners have been telling us for years that the non-verbal and vocal elements of our communication account for more than 65% of our message.
So it’s not only when you have a big presentation or are being interviewed for a job that you need to put your best foot forward, it is everyday; for the simple reason that you never know who you will meet and what opportunities you will come across each day.
They say that expectancy is the atmosphere of miracles and if you look around you, you are likely to find people who always present themselves well somehow seem to attract more opportunities.
Presenting yourself well doesn’t just mean clean, pressed professional clothes, but also involves how you smell, how your breath smells and keeping your hands clean and dry (not damp and sweaty) and all the other basic grooming habits that should now be second nature to us.
And then there is the matter of what you will actually say — the elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is a short presentation of the main selling points of a project, person or product.
It sums up the salient points in a short space of time (between 30 seconds and two minutes) and allows those who may potentially be interested to quickly decide whether they want to hear more.
But elevator pitches are not just for entrepreneurs seeking investors or sales people or job seekers.
Being able to talk positives and succinctly about yourself is a useful tool for building relationships and projecting confidence.
As a child I was painfully shy. I have excruciatingly clear memories of literally hiding behind my mother and clutching her skirts after church because I simply didn’t want to face all the people we would meet and greet. I was already in school at this time, so I was interacting with different people on a daily basis, but somehow when their attention focused on me, I would become tongue tied and feel the uncomfortable heat of blood rushing to my face in embarrassment.
At some point between then and now I recognised that I actually like people, that I enjoy learning about how they think and reason.
I developed an insatiable curiosity for the intricate details of their daily lives, trying to understand how they rationalised their choices and what they believed about various issues and why. It seemed that once I started focusing on them, it wasn’t so important what they were thinking about me.
But it is said that roughly 50% of people in the workforce would describe themselves as shy. This feeling of extreme discomfort and embarrassment makes it difficult to project confidence.
The trick I think, is to prepare, practice and perfect your elevator pitch to the point where you can begin to present it without self consciousness.
By the way an elevator pitch is not just for elevators either! It comes in handy on any occasion where a concise persuasive presentation is appropriate.
Writing for the Harvard Business Review, author and communication specialist Jodi Glickman says your elevator pitch is your opportunity to communicate these critical pieces of information to someone in a crisp but casual way — without even being asked. She outlines three tips for successful pitches:
Think relevant, not recent. Instead of talking about yourself or your project in reverse chronological order, as one does in a CV, talk about the specifics that are most relevant to what you are trying to sell.
Focus on skills. Some of the qualifications you have are skills-based and others are industry-based. Focussing on the skills allows you to demonstrate relevance to the particular situation.
Connect the dots. Your pitch should tell a cohesive story that paints a picture of competence, relevance and hopefully excellence!
At the end of the day you will have to be honest about the value you create, be simple, be brief, and then when it’s appropriate, be seated!
Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent to email@example.com.
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