Oh, the dreaded elevator pitch! As working professionals, we have heard over and over again how important it is to have one developed and memorized for networking and job search purposes. As a career coach, I’ve told my clients that too, and there will always be a time and a place when you need to pull it out of your memory bank and deliver it in a high-energy, confident manner.
But let’s face it….can you ever remember an elevator pitch that stuck with you or made you spring into action? Likely not, as the recommended pitch is given in less than one minute and, it usually comes from a stranger, so you likely haven’t even caught their name.
The term elevator pitch refers to the idea of introducing yourself to someone in the approximate time it takes to ride an elevator between floors, making it brief and encapsulating what you want the other person to know about you and whatever ask you may have in less than a minute.
In an effort to make these brief interactions more memorable, I have begun to recommend an alternate approach: Differentiation.
The idea of replacing a structured and rote elevator pitch with differentiation – being different to be remembered – may not be a strategy you’ve ever considered before, because, after all, we spend most of our lives trying to fit in and trying not to stand out!
But in today’s competitive, oversaturated job market with instant data accessibility and connectivity, standing out – being different – is the key to being remembered.
Differentiation is a fresh approach to the old problem of the stale introduction formula. Differentiation is the willingness to be authentic, communicate with zeal and intention with the goal of being remembered.
A differentiation approach can include:
- Create a tag line or a one-liner that showcases your uniqueness, instead of expanding on your past experience and what it is that you want from the conversation. Leave your new contact wanting to learn more about you. EXAMPLES: “John Jones, starting where others leave off.” “Hi, I’m John Jones, the one out of 10 you’ve heard so much about.” “John Jones, the HR leader you know you need.” “John Jones, don’t let me be the one that got away.” “John Jones, taking the marketing burden off of your shoulders and placing it on mine.”
- Ask a meaningful question that gets the conversation going. EXAMPLE: “Hi, I’m Jill Jones, what about your business keeps you up at night and how can I help?”
- Offer to help the person you just met without expectation of anything in return. EXAMPLE: “What is your goal for attending this networking meeting today and how can I help?”
- Demonstrate your specialty or ability in a short, clever way. EXAMPLE: I am fluent in three languages (and then repeat that statement in the other languages you speak).
- Lead with an offer of service versus an ask for help. EXAMPLE: My goal this year is to volunteer at 3 nonprofit organizations. Do you have a cause that is close to your heart that I could assist in some way?
Individuals in transition, those actively looking for work, or younger professionals often fail to recognize how powerful they are and downplay the value they can offer to others or leverage that power to ask for what they want. A rising professional can leave a strong impression on an established executive merely by stepping beyond their fear of speaking with a senior leader and asking questions or offering their perspective.
Finally, create a way to continue the conversation. Starters like “may I connect with you on LinkedIn?” or “Are you a member of this group?” or “Do you have a business card (digital or traditional) to share so I could reach out and set up a meeting for next week?” these are great ways to take the burden of further contact off the shoulders of your new connection, thereby, leaving a positive impression with no work on their part and you control the dynamic of the next interaction.
Ditching the elevator pitch and replacing it with a strategy to differentiate yourself from the white noise of everyone else’s cookie cutter approach will present an opportunity to be remembered for your creativity and uniqueness and leave a lasting and positive impression.
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