Why Your Elevator Pitch Isn't Working

You know you need an elevator pitch. Perhaps you’ve even practiced and gotten “why choose me” down to a perfect pitch. But somehow you never seem to get the chance to use it. Sadly, the biggest mistake I see aspiring networkers make is that they don’t recognize an “elevator” when they’re in one.

Invisible Elevators

I had my entire leadership team in for a Summit– 2 1/2 days of strategy, development, growing and fun. The shuttles from the hotel to our headquarters-based meeting left at 7 am. A few of us had cars and were driving over. As I walked into the parking lot, there was a cluster of folks who had clearly missed the bus.

“No worries, I’ve got room,” I said, cheerfully. Everyone looked at their feet. One of my Directors who also had a car offered, “or you can come with me…” They all followed her. I looked at them and smiled, “really?” You are on the way to a leadership summit, where the first thing on the agenda is how to network through elevator pitches and no one’s getting in my car? One brave soul came forward and we put her suitcase in my trunk. “Don’t worry, I said, no elevator pitch necessary.”

I then proceeded to share all the crazy stuff that had happened when I was in cars with executives. The time I was so busy “elevator pitching” my team’s results to our CEO that I drove past the exit (with an 8 mile recovery). The day I took a sales rep out to lunch for a “wager” we’d made on an “impossible” accomplishment, and got pulled over for an illegal turn. She warmed up. And bingo a BEAUTIFUL elevator pitch. I learned a bit about her and what she was up to. She asked about my career, and then shared more. We both left enriched by the time together.

Fast Pitch Exercise

Fast forward to 8 am. Summit.

A few leaders on my team created a “fast pitch” exercise. I recommend it if you ever have a large team together who are eager to advance.

A bit like speed dating, and speed mentoring, We had 120 people join us in fast pitch stations. My senior team and I were the “catchers” and everyone else brought their “elevator speeches” or joined us in a “mock interview” question in one-on-one sessions. Each session lasted only a few minutes, but we offered immediate feedback, and a chance to fine-tune. I was astounded by the progress made in such a short time.

Improve your elevator pitch

In the debrief, the team said they learned to…

  • Start with genuine connection
  • Understand what’s important to “them” and build on that
  • Don’t assume they get your world
  • Speak in understandable language
  • Don’t minimize who you are
  • Share your passion and energy
  • Speak from your heart (show up genuine)

Most importantly. Get in the car. Leverage that walk to the meeting. Chat while working together on volunteer day.  Get past the small talk at the recognition dinner.

Elevator speeches don’t need elevators.

Know your worth, hone your message, and share it.

Why Your Elevator Pitch Isn’t Working

You know you need an elevator pitch. Perhaps you’ve even practiced and gotten “why choose me” down to a perfect pitch. But somehow you never seem to get the chance to use it. Sadly, the biggest mistake I see aspiring networkers make is that they don’t recognize an “elevator” when they’re in one.

Invisible Elevators

I had my entire leadership team in for a Summit– 2 1/2 days of strategy, development, growing and fun. The shuttles from the hotel to our headquarters-based meeting left at 7 am. A few of us had cars and were driving over. As I walked into the parking lot, there was a cluster of folks who had clearly missed the bus.

“No worries, I’ve got room,” I said, cheerfully. Everyone looked at their feet. One of my Directors who also had a car offered, “or you can come with me…” They all followed her. I looked at them and smiled, “really?” You are on the way to a leadership summit, where the first thing on the agenda is how to network through elevator pitches and no one’s getting in my car? One brave soul came forward and we put her suitcase in my trunk. “Don’t worry, I said, no elevator pitch necessary.”

I then proceeded to share all the crazy stuff that had happened when I was in cars with executives. The time I was so busy “elevator pitching” my team’s results to our CEO that I drove past the exit (with an 8 mile recovery). The day I took a sales rep out to lunch for a “wager” we’d made on an “impossible” accomplishment, and got pulled over for an illegal turn. She warmed up. And bingo a BEAUTIFUL elevator pitch. I learned a bit about her and what she was up to. She asked about my career, and then shared more. We both left enriched by the time together.

Fast Pitch Exercise

Fast forward to 8 am. Summit.

A few leaders on my team created a “fast pitch” exercise. I recommend it if you ever have a large team together who are eager to advance.

A bit like speed dating, and speed mentoring, We had 120 people join us in fast pitch stations. My senior team and I were the “catchers” and everyone else brought their “elevator speeches” or joined us in a “mock interview” question in one-on-one sessions. Each session lasted only a few minutes, but we offered immediate feedback, and a chance to fine-tune. I was astounded by the progress made in such a short time.

Improve your elevator pitch

In the debrief, the team said they learned to…

  • Start with genuine connection
  • Understand what’s important to “them” and build on that
  • Don’t assume they get your world
  • Speak in understandable language
  • Don’t minimize who you are
  • Share your passion and energy
  • Speak from your heart (show up genuine)

Most importantly. Get in the car. Leverage that walk to the meeting. Chat while working together on volunteer day.  Get past the small talk at the recognition dinner.

Elevator speeches don’t need elevators.

Know your worth, hone your message, and share it.

Why You're Not Getting Hired

I get frustrated and sad when I see highly qualified people unable to sell themselves in a job they deserve. It happened again, perhaps you know someone who can benefit from this story and actions that followed.

Meet Me in St. Louis

The sweet woman next to me on the flight from Denver to St. Louis shared her story. She had a masters in teaching, and yet kept piecing together assistant jobs to make ends meet for her and her 7-year-old son. This meant no benefits and often waitressing on the side. She couldn’t seem to get hired in a permanent gig. “I just don’t seem to be what they’re looking for.” She had an interview that afternoon for a “real” teaching job. Game on.

When I asked her about what “they were looking for” in previous interviews, the conversation led to rubrics and curriculum and other teacher-y words. Her lack of experience drained the confidence from her explanation. “I keep trying to figure out what they want, and I think that makes my answers fuzzy.”

Let’s try an approach that will get you hired.

Why are you passionate about education (to hang in this long). What makes you unique as a teacher?

Seat 14 B suddenly radiated a new energy. She told me stories of raising her son bi-lingual and how she incorporates that into the classroom. How she’s an artist and how she marries art history with reading and writing in interactive field trips in the park. She shared her proactive efforts to learn at conferences and share with her peers.

And so, I asked the obvious question.  Have you ever shared any of that in an interview? 

She stopped. “No.”

They Don’t Know They’re Looking For You

In an effort to be what “they” want, she was masking her gifts. They can’t possibly think they are looking for a bi-lingual artist, with a masters in teaching, and a passion for making reading fun. It doesn’t mean they won’t jump when they see that. I would want my first grader in her class.

Teacher’s Homework

The flight was ending so we outlined an approach.

  1. Identify the 3 gifts that differentiated her as a teacher (Art, Languages later I found she knows more than 2), and Reading
  2. Practice the starting statement here’s what I’m about (she needed an elevator speech)
  3. Prepare examples that highlight her 3 gifts (specifics, with outcomes and results)
  4. Anticipate the tough questions, and weave in her gifts
  5. End with confidence. “I don’t want to appear cocky.” (She was about 7 degrees of separation from cocky confidence matters).

Your Homework

  1. Identify your 3 gifts
  2. Curate your stories and examples to explain them
  3. Identify the audience
  4. Tell your story
  5. Grow them more

More Tools to Get Hired

Why You’re Not Getting Hired

I get frustrated and sad when I see highly qualified people unable to sell themselves in a job they deserve. It happened again, perhaps you know someone who can benefit from this story and actions that followed.

Meet Me in St. Louis

The sweet woman next to me on the flight from Denver to St. Louis shared her story. She had a masters in teaching, and yet kept piecing together assistant jobs to make ends meet for her and her 7-year-old son. This meant no benefits and often waitressing on the side. She couldn’t seem to get hired in a permanent gig. “I just don’t seem to be what they’re looking for.” She had an interview that afternoon for a “real” teaching job. Game on.

When I asked her about what “they were looking for” in previous interviews, the conversation led to rubrics and curriculum and other teacher-y words. Her lack of experience drained the confidence from her explanation. “I keep trying to figure out what they want, and I think that makes my answers fuzzy.”

Let’s try an approach that will get you hired.

Why are you passionate about education (to hang in this long). What makes you unique as a teacher?

Seat 14 B suddenly radiated a new energy. She told me stories of raising her son bi-lingual and how she incorporates that into the classroom. How she’s an artist and how she marries art history with reading and writing in interactive field trips in the park. She shared her proactive efforts to learn at conferences and share with her peers.

And so, I asked the obvious question.  Have you ever shared any of that in an interview? 

She stopped. “No.”

They Don’t Know They’re Looking For You

In an effort to be what “they” want, she was masking her gifts. They can’t possibly think they are looking for a bi-lingual artist, with a masters in teaching, and a passion for making reading fun. It doesn’t mean they won’t jump when they see that. I would want my first grader in her class.

Teacher’s Homework

The flight was ending so we outlined an approach.

  1. Identify the 3 gifts that differentiated her as a teacher (Art, Languages later I found she knows more than 2), and Reading
  2. Practice the starting statement here’s what I’m about (she needed an elevator speech)
  3. Prepare examples that highlight her 3 gifts (specifics, with outcomes and results)
  4. Anticipate the tough questions, and weave in her gifts
  5. End with confidence. “I don’t want to appear cocky.” (She was about 7 degrees of separation from cocky confidence matters).

Your Homework

  1. Identify your 3 gifts
  2. Curate your stories and examples to explain them
  3. Identify the audience
  4. Tell your story
  5. Grow them more

More Tools to Get Hired

Glass Elevators: Why Having an Elevator Speech Matters

Yesterday I attended an important meeting with important people. I was not scheduled to speak. And then, sure enough, I was given the opportunity to give my elevator speech.

A good friend of mine in Finance (p.s. always have a good friend in Finance) batted the conversation my way game on.

  • What’s our channel’s mission?
  • How are our results?
  • What’s our team best at?
  • How have we improved?

The buttons on the figurative elevator were pressed time to roll.

You see, I am familiar with elevators, and what can happen in them.

Early Elevators

Very early in my career, a VP several levels above me asked me to attend a very controversial meeting on his behalf. To this day, I don’t know if it was deliberate (because he thought I could add value), or if he really didn’t understand the controversial nature of the meeting, or if he was just scared.

The minute I walked in, I was questioned as to why I was there ( instead of the VP). I stayed (not knowing if I should), and it was down hill from there.

I listened to all the ideas for the major undertaking that were being presented. Being completely naive about how to approach such things, I said everything that was on my mind no filters to everyone in the room. This involved questioning the entire methodology of some very well-thought out plans of some amazing leaders. I was discounted, and should have been. I did not approach it well.

So, later that day when I ran into that VP in the elevator (huge building, crazy coincedence), I looked at the floor. The next thing I heard Karin, I have been thinking. You may be on to something. Please tell me what you wanted to say.

I told her and got involved. That project transformed my career, and she became a fantastic mentor.

A bit later

So years later, as I grew in leadership responsibility, I wanted the best folks on my team to always be prepared to tell their story and share their ideas in a meaningful and concise way. From time to time, I lead “mentoring circles” on the subject of elevator speeches.

I always begin these sessions with my latest “elevator speech” as an example

  • what our team is about
  • how we are making a difference
  • real statistics of how we are improving
  • and my leadership vision to lead that team

One time, after doing the session with a great group of front line leaders, I got into the elevator. We had just been through a reorganization that week and I had a new senior leader that I had not yet met (but he must have seen my picture).

He looks at me and says, “Hey, Aren’t you on my new team?  What’s your story?”

So I shared my newly minted elevator speech.

That worked too.

Since then, I always keep one fresh.

Tomorrow morning

I am attending another important meeting in a very big hotel lots of elevators lots of people.

Keeping it fresh.