Crafting your elevator pitch

The clock is ticking, so know exactly what you want to say.

Motivational speaker Terri Sjodin has taught her persuasive sales techniques to hundreds of companies nationwide, from AETNA to the YMCA. An oft-featured speaker at Republican Party leadership events, Sjodin’s latest book — “Small Message, Big Impact: The Elevator Speech Effect” — is an attempt to apply her strategies to everyday office situations.

How do you stay true to yourself and still craft an effective pitch?
When I do workshops, I videotape people telling a personal adventure story. While they’re sharing it, they’re animated, and they use their own little colloquialisms. Basically, they’re having fun. Their natural voice comes through. Then I take that same person and video them giving a business presentation. They suddenly become like Stepford [wives]. There’s this fictitious business mode that people think they need to adopt. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t behave appropriately in a meeting, but starting to blend in your natural passion would be a good first step.

Where do people go wrong in crafting an elevator speech?

They don’t take the time to craft it. They wing it. It takes time and effort to honestly ask yourself: What do I want to say? What’s important about what I want to say? And, more importantly, what does the listener think is important? What’s the sexy nugget about what I have to say?

But the listener often throws wild cards at you.

That’s why, before every business meeting, it’s also important to ask yourself a basic question: What do I want to happen as a result of this meeting? Once you know what you want — in plain and clear language — it becomes easy to work out what they need to hear in order to give you that.  


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