How to Find Your Story: Building a 30-Second Elevator Pitch
by Nick Nebelsky
What do you say when someone walks up to you and asks, “What do you do for a living?”
Do you often just stand there with a ‘deer in headlights’ look? Do you find yourself frantically searching for words that will impress while the other person waits for what seems like an eternity? Are you shy? Timid? Pusillanimous! — Oh, no, not that!
Or are you polished, precise, and most importantly unique? Here’s the deal, you should have 30 seconds or 30 words prepared that best describe what you’re working on RIGHT NOW. It’s not your autobiography squeezed into 30 words, or a rant about why your life sucks. No, this is your time to SHINE!
Why do they call it “30-second elevator pitch”? If you look at it spatially, an elevator is a 6’ by 7’ space. The other person isn’t going anywhere for at least one floor. There’s no escaping for either of you! The other reason I have for you is that the attention span of the average human being is about 30 seconds. Yeah, I made that up, but I’m sure it’s true! Your 30-second elevator pitch is a standard business phrase.
Let’s say you’re standing in an elevator and Oprah Winfrey walks in. You and she are standing there with nothing to do for at least 30 seconds, maybe even a minute or two if it’s in an old Chicago high rise. What are you going to do to get Oprah to notice you? Thirty seconds is a long time, actually. It’s one-half minute that could make or break your next opportunity.
Keep it simple, to the point, and don’t make it about you.
When preparing your 30-second intro, you should write it down and practice it again and again, because every time you meet someone new, you’ll have a new opportunity to market yourself as an expert and, more importantly, talk about your book. Don’t think this happens only on elevators: you could be at a networking event, having coffee after church, in line at the movies. Bottom line is, you always have to be prepared.
Since I live in the Phoenix area, I reached out to some local Advertising Dons for some input. Park Howell, founder of BusinessOfStory.com, calls the elevator pitch the perfect three-act structure.
Essentially, you are your own brand. Much like how an advertiser would build an ad campaign around your product, your 30-second elevator pitch resembles a commercial. You have a very short time to grab that other person’s attention. John Zello, freelance creative director, says, “They have to give something of value to the audience.” So it’s not about you – it’s about how you are going to change the world doing what you love. John added, “We all want to know something and share what we know to look smart. But if it’s just ‘hurry through it to get it over with,’ we lose the message in a sea of similarity. You are then much less likely to be remembered.”
When I reached out to Howell, also founder of Park & Co. in Scottsdale, Ariz., he gave me his 30-second elevator pitch: “Business leaders and communicators have important brand stories to tell, but few are being heard. Therefore, I help them rise above the noise of the tech-driven attention economy using the proven power of business storytelling to create epic growth for their enterprise and their people.” Park helps people rise above the noise! He’s giving them value and something they can use to be unique.
When you have a limited time with someone, you want to make sure that time is well spent. My philosophy has always been to stress the “why” rather than the “what.”
There is the “intent” of your story, or the “What I do.” And then there’s the “context” of the story, or the “Why I do it!”
Let me give you a couple of examples:
- Intent (what you do): “I’m a children’s book author and illustrator.”Quite frankly that’s a little boring. Instead of focusing on intent, go for context (why you do what you do).
- Context (why you do it): “I teach children how to build self-esteem through funny and entertaining stories.”BAM! Do you see the difference? The second sentence gives you that WOW factor! It almost begs for the other person to ask more questions. And ultimately that’s what you want. The 30-second elevator pitch is a conversation starter – it’s not for you to toot your own horn.
Here’s another example:
- Intent (what you do): “I’m a police officer.”Since many people know what a police officer does, one could surmise that he/she pulls over speeders, arrests people, and gives out tickets.
- Context (why you do it): “I protect people who can’t protect themselves.”This is so much more interesting. There’s now intrigue built into the phrase, which begs the other person to ask for more information and invites a conversation. Leading off with a “why” is a way to build intrigue and suspense. Isn’t that, after all, the goal of the pitch?
Zello says that a powerful intro is one that connects and makes you feel like it’s a fair symbol of you; something that is relatable to you. It’s a piece of who you are and what you stand for or what you believe.
This is why I love talking with creatives. They know how to express themselves to get to the core of the issue and, BAM, it’s laid out for everyone to see. What is John’ elevator pitch?
“I help people remember why life is important before they know what is important.”
Children who are treated differently for being different need someone to take a stand for them, and Nick Nebelsky believes his books and apps do just that. Nebelsky seems to have found his niche in helping those children be heard. He’s an author, illustrator, and publisher of books, apps, and online instruction. He is offering a free online course on book creation available on his web site at IntenseMedia.com.