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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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Whether you’re a new graduate responding to that first job application or a laid-off professional living in a cardboard box under a railroad trestle, writing a proper cover letter could be your gateway to a rewarding career or at least a sturdier packing crate.

However, even the most seasoned job hunters find themselves intimidated at the prospect of creating a cover letter. “Am I boasting too much?” they worry. “Should I mention my references?” “How do you spell ‘embezzlement’?”

Such concerns are minor, except for the felony. Writing a compelling and powerful cover letter is a relatively simple task, especially if it’s about someone other than you. However, you’re all we have to work with, so let’s take a look. Stand up straighter! Don’t slouch!

Hmmmm…just how good are your references?

A well-written cover letter can mean the difference between placement in a job that fits your skills or one that surrounds you with choking fumes, hazardous molten steel and muscular, hate-filled men who bitterly resent you.

A well-written cover letter can mean the difference between placement in a job that fits your skills or one that surrounds you with choking fumes, hazardous molten steel and muscular, hate-filled men who bitterly resent you.

Too often cover letters tend to be formulaic, which is fine if you’re applying for a job writing formulae – a skill so specialized that you probably already have a job. But for those following a more traditional career track, using a standard, “one-size-fits-all” letter can produce such uninspired results as this:

TO: General Manager, One-Size-Fits-All Apparel Company

As a (go-getter; name-taker; butt-kicker: Select one) I believe I would be a (benefit; asset; formulae: Select one) to the One-Size-Fits-All Apparel Company. I offer a wide range of skills and an ability to (think outside the box; color inside the lines; fit into one size: Select one) that would help make your successful company even more (good; nice; real nice: Select one). I hope that you will consider my enclosed (résumé; bribe; blackmail photos: Select one) as you look over job candidates.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Respectfully,
(Your name; someone else’s name; more blackmail photos: Select one)

Technically speaking, there’s nothing really wrong with this letter, unless your intention is to be hired. If so, consider ways to create a letter that go beyond the mundane, past the merely interesting, into the realm of the creative, through the portal to the Dark World, out along the rim of the Oblivion Void….

Okay, that’s too far. Back this way, a little. A little more. Aaaaand…THERE! Put it in park, hand over the keys, and follow these rules:

  • A successful cover letter weaves an intriguing story about you, reflects an insightful grasp of the prospective employer, delineates your skill set, portrays your individuality, and expresses your business commitment, all in less than a half dozen words or, better yet, just a feral grunt.
  • Take the time to research a perspective company before you set pen to paper. Knowing how they operate will help guide the tone of your letter. Also don’t write with pen and paper. What are you, Charles Dickens?
  • If possible, target your letter to a person rather than an anonymous “Dear Sir/Madame”. This can prove a challenge as many companies, particularly large firms, rarely include the names of hiring managers unless they’re combat trained.
  • Mention mutual contacts. Do you and a company executive share a common acquaintance? Probably not, since they rarely associate with your kind. Still, it’s worth a little exploration through a practice the business community calls “networking” and the criminal courts call “stalking.”
  • Turn a personal trait or quirk into a unique benefit to a company. For example, which of these phrases stands you out from the crowd?

“I’m an enthusiastic team player!”

or

“I’m an enthusiastic team player who’s also highly radioactive. Consequently, I respect peoples’ boundaries.”

Finally, carefully manage your expectations of what a cover letter can accomplish. It is, after all, but the “appetizer” to your résumé, which is the “salad course” introducing the “entrée” that is your job interview. Hopefully, that won’t cause you a panic attack, or “spilled soup”, that requires a visit to the rest room, or “rest room”, to “rinse a stain” – puke – “use hand sanitizer” – pop a Xanax – then “return to the table” – call your therapist.

Bon Appetit!

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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