Reduce Your Elevator Pitch to a Memory Dart

Yes, I am a heretic of business communication. I don’t buy into the one-minute elevator pitch.

Actually, I’m totally into the idea of a compact presentation of one’s self and one’s business. I just have three issues with the one-minute elevator pitch:

  1. One minute is too long.
  2. You’re only in elevators 0.0000001% of the time (yes, I made that up).
  3. No-one wants to be pitched.

The classic elevator pitch is too long, and it’s trying to accomplish too much.

For your opener, I believe in the the Fifteen-Second Memory Dart – a single phrase with a vivid image that can be delivered before the elevator door closes.

Here’s an example:

Q: “Good to meet you, Steve. What is it you do?”

A: “I’m the world’s only Clarity Consultant. In less than a day, I help individuals and companies discover their offering and distill it into a clear, compelling message.”

BOOM! Vivid imagery. Concise explanation. Clear offering. One sentence summary; no forgettable monologue. A provocative dart, not a canned pitch.

This opening verbal thrust accomplishes three things:

  • It makes you immediately memorable. You’re leaving an image behind (preferably via an effective analogy).
  • It very quickly establishes if there is a potential area of need (not only with that individual, but with someone they might know).
  • It opens the door to say more by invitation, at which time you can take a minute or two to tell a condensed story (“So, how do you do that??“)

I have a lot of common perspectives with Chris Westfall, who is positioned as the (NEW) Elevator Pitch guy. But I think introduction-by-pitch is one step premature. In the first 15 seconds, we need to capture attention, be memorable, and provoke an invitation to tell the story. That’s what a memory dart does.

I will warn you – it sounds easy, but creating your memory dart is one of the hardest communications challenges you’ll ever face. Distilling purpose/offering/message to one sentence and wrapping it into an image or analogy takes tremendous creativity and hard work. But since this is your first foot forward in every professional introduction, where your goal is to cut through the fog and be remembered – nothing else is more important.

It’s astounding how much time and effort (and money) companies will put into ineffective marketing campaigns, when the most vital thing is the verbal welcome mat of a memory dart. Start there, and everything else will fall into place.

Further reading:

Seth Godin: No-one Ever Bought Anything on an Elevator

Forbes: Six Simple and Irresistible Alternatives to the Elevator Pitch (Carmine Gallo)



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