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Crafting a short, snappy, yet engaging elevator pitch so intimidates even the most confident business leaders that many prefer to take the stairs.

Although an excellent fitness choice, the lack of a succinct elevator pitch puts today’s entrepreneur at risk of missing important business opportunities as well as exacerbating ankle tendon problems. Yet developing a memorable, attention-getting elevator pitch is simplicity itself if you follow a few basic speaking rules, demonstrate a command of your topic, and ice your leg muscles after strenuous exertion.

To properly formulate your elevator pitch, it’s advisable to understand the history of the elevator and possess a detailed comprehension of the machinery involved.

Folklore would have us believe that the elevator was invented by American industrialist Elisha Graves Otis. But that would just be folklore jacking us around again like it did with that whole moon landing thing.

Early, slow-moving elevators meant long, formal elevator speeches

Early, slow-moving elevators meant long, formal elevator speeches

In fact, elevators were in operation long before Otis, in 1854, introduced a safety device that prevented them from falling when the cable snapped. His attempts to market the device lead to the earliest recorded elevator pitch:

OTIS: “Shit! Sure hope that cable doesn’t snap.”

CLIENT: “Oh, Sweet Jesus! We’re all gonna die!”

OTIS: “Maybe not. Sign here.”

Thus, an elevator “pitch” or “speech” refers to a concise synopsis of your business that can be effectively communicated to someone in an elevator moving from, say, the second to third floor. Going down, use the same pitch, only backwards.

Brevity is the key to a successful pitch. We’d explain in detail, but that would miss the point. Instead, let’s examine the elements that contribute to a winning presentation.

Vitally important to your elevator speech is that it quickly engage listeners. This can prove difficult as the heady rush of acceleration in fast-rising elevators drains blood from passengers’ brain leaving them temporarily disoriented, confused and possibly retching blood. In such cases, apply a tourniquet to their throat, then press the buttons for every floor to buy you time.

After ensuring that your listener is out of immediate medical danger – pallor clear, pupils no longer dilated – begin your pitch with a question. This serves as an intriguing icebreaker, provided that it flows naturally, comfortably into a description of your business.

LISTENER: “M..Mom?”

PITCHER: “No, you’re still on the elevator. Deep breaths, now. Say, ever wonder how that Hannibal Lecter fella’ skins his victims?”

LISTENER: “Wha..What?”

PITCHER: “The movies get it all wrong. I should know. My flourishing company manufactures state-of-the-art potato peelers at economical prices!”

LISTENER: “Oh, Sweet Jesus! We’re all gonna die!”

A powerful first impression, no? Yet just as effective, should these two meet again at business events or court-ordered psychiatric evaluations. Honing an elevator speech to this level of sophistication requires that you practice it on anyone who will listen – like family, friends and business colleagues – and many who won’t – again, like family, friends and business colleagues.

Rehearse in front of a mirror. Refine your gestures, attend your posture, and most important, articulate your words. The goal here is that your lip movements should exactly match those of your reflection. If they don’t, press the “reset” button on the cable box.

Frankly, there’s no shortcut to developing a masterful elevator speech. But with a lot of dedicated work and a little luck you could be ready by the time your business folds and your company goes into receivership.

Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe, www.davejaffecomm.com is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.

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