For years, I’ve been advocating that economic developers write and master an elevator pitch. Considering the number of meetings and conferences they typically attend, there are numerous opportunities to tell their community’s story. Unfortunately, some people consider the idea of an elevator pitch to be a bit corny. “I know my community very well,” is the usual response. “I’ve lived there my entire life.” Recently, however, I witnessed evidence of what happens when people are not prepared.
Part of the scheduled program at a multi-state economic development conference, the room was set with a table designated for each of several industries, and each discussion was led by a site selection consultant with expertise in that industry. As I wandered the room, trying to determine which discussion interested me, I heard a site consultant invite each person at his table to introduce themselves and their communities. That got my attention. It is for just such situations that I advocate a polished pitch.
It was a fascinating thing to watch. A few people had their pitch down pat. Their intro was brief, well thought out, and presented masterfully. Some had the right idea, but struggled to articulate their thoughts. Then there were those who were caught completely off guard. They were at a loss, with no idea what to say. It was very uncomfortable to watch.
Ride the elevator
So, just how did the idea of an elevator pitch come about? Someone once noted that the typical elevator ride took about thirty seconds. If two people met in an elevator, the ideal sales pitch could be presented before the door opened. That, then, was considered the ideal amount of time needed for an intro pitch.
Even today, the thirty second pitch lives on at networking events, cocktail receptions, and meetings. In some communities, networking events are held where attendees move from table to table, giving their intro pitch and exchanging business cards. Failure to have a polished pitch could mean the difference between networking success and a complete waste of time and money.
Know your audience
Now, back to the conference I mentioned. When an economic developer chose to sit at an industry-specific table, say, Food Processing, I would assume that person was there to learn more about how site selections were made for the food industry and for an opportunity to network with the site consultant at that table. Why, then, would that economic developer not be fully prepared for the chance to make an intro pitch. With a little research into the industry, it would be reasonably easy to know what he or she wants to hear and then develop a sensible thirty second pitch. Sadly, many people show up at such events with no idea what they will say when the opportunity presents itself.
Plan of action
Here’s my recommendation. If you know your target industries and can defend your reasons for selecting them, craft a short written statement for each and read them over and over and over until they are committed to memory. Be prepared for any possibility. So, the next time you’re in a situation like the conference I described, you’ll be able to instinctively recite your elevator pitch in an effective and impactful way.
I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share your thoughts and personal experiences below.