The Elevator Pitch
Back when I was teaching Self Employment to groups of 15 on the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers (TIOW), lesson one on day one was how to introduce yourself and your business in a clear and concise manner. First I had everybody introduce themselves and their business idea without comment as they stumbled and stammered their way through long convoluted explanations.
Next, I would introduce myself in the format I wanted them to follow, presented them with the actual format and then gave them 10 minutes to write out an introduction of their own that followed the model I gave them. From that point on, the group introduced themselves individually every class room day of the 6 month program.
The first time I took some of the group to a Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, sure enough they were required to intro themselves, as were several established business owners who were not part of our group. I was so proud of my participants as they confidently got to their feet one by one and nailed their introductions.
Now I am going to give you the format that will allow you to introduce yourself confidently in any situation, just as I presented it to them.
- Introduce yourself and your company by name.
- Tell them what you do. (for them)
- Tell them why they should care.
- SO WHAT?
Ok, that sounds simple but what does it look like. When asked to introduce themselves, most entrepreneurs go into what i call “Burst Transmission: Feature Dump”. They yard out a laundry list of all of their products and services and “Yada, yada, yada” until the other person’s eyes glaze over or they politely excuse themselves because there is someone on the opposite side of the room that they just HAVE to speak to.
So let’s look at the steps one at a time. Step one is to introduce yourself and your company. OK, try this on for size.
“Hi! I’m (insert name here) from (Insert company name here).”
OK, that’s pretty straight forward. Step two is to tell them what you do “for them”. Try to use sentences that convey the end result (what’s in it for them) rather than features of your products and services or worse, a laundry list of features “It slices, it dices, it juliens, stop me when you hear something you like!” One good exercise that will help you with this part is to write out what your business does in 10 words or less.
Step 3 is to tell them why they should care. In other words, what benefit would they get from talking to you further?
Step 4 is SO WHAT? These are possibly the two most important words that any entrepreneur can ever learn. Every time that you make a statement about yourself, your company, your products or your services, silently ask yourself the question “So What?” and then answer that question out loud. This will make you more interesting and start more productive conversations than anything else that you do.
So let’s look at an example. This is how I introduced myself to my groups.
“Hi! I’m Richard and I am the program facilitator on the TIOW Program. We help those over the age of 50 to transition from the work force into your own small businesses. We do this by providing Business Planning and Business Management Skills that increase your chances of surviving the first year. So chances are you will not only survive in business but thrive in business.
Now I will break that down for you to show you how it fits the model.
!. Introduce yourself and your company by name. “Hi! I’m Richard and I am the program facilitator on the TIOW Program.”
2. tell them what you do (for them) “ We help those over the age of 50 to transition from the work force into your own small businesses. “
3. Tell them why they should care. “We do this by providing Business Planning and Business Management Skills that increase your chances of surviving the first year. “
4. SO WHAT? “So chances are you will not only survive in business but thrive in business.”
Nowadays my intro is as follows;
- “Hi I’m Richard from the Fraser Valley Training Group.
- We provide a wide variety of business services for small business owners.
- We help them identify and reach their target markets
- so that they can generate more revenues and profits
There is also a step five. SHUT UP! Once you have finished that introduction it is time for you to shut up and listen. Your introduction should provide just enough information to convey what you do and to make the person you are talking to want to hear more. You will notice that my introduction does not say ” I write business plans, teach team building, coach and mentor businesses, teach LinkedIn usage, Develop LinkedIn Company Pages, train sales people, do brand development, write marketing plans, develop social media strategies, provide interim managers for C level coverage due to illness or maternity, etc. etc. etc. (more yada, yada, yada). Not only would that bore them to tears, I have not earned the right to do that.
People do business with people who they know, like and trust. Like and trust have to be earned. You will hear those phrases continuously as I do subsequent blog posts on communications for Entrepreneurs and the whole process of finding and acquiring new business.
For now, start by writing out your introduction following the format I have outlined. USE YOUR OWN WORDS! If your introduction doesn’t sound like you it will fall flat, Once you are finished try reading it out loud a few times. Does it sound smooth and comfortable or awkward and tentative? Revise it until it feels comfortable. Next, get somebody to read it to you so that you can hear how it sounds. Once you have a “final” version, practice it. Say it to your spouse, your parents, your kids, your friends and even strangers that you meet. You want to say it over and over until it becomes second nature to you. Then when you go to a networking event, a trade show or a Chamber of Commerce meeting you will never stumble when some stranger says “What do you do?”.
Revise your intro every few months so it doesn’t become stale and robotic. Have fun with it and allow your unique personality to shine through.