The Elevator Pitch

elevator.jpg I have now had four different conversations in which it was suggested that I develop and perfect my “elevator pitch.”

I had not heard this phrase before three weeks ago. This is nearly a miracle since I have worked for about twenty different companies in the last ten years and felt that I was fully saturated and up-to-date on all business jargon. Mind you, I don’t say that with any pleasure. Listening to the overgrown frat boy in a suit from down the cubicle hallway use words like “impactful” and “priorize” (a personal favorite) still makes my skin itch.

I thought I was nearing the end of the learning curve when they slipped “elevator pitch” in on me. After a split second of confusion in which I scanned all possible meanings, including “a highly restricted and probably physically damaging version of the American pastime” and “the advocacy of newfangled ways of avoiding the challenging exercise of climbing the stairs,” I settled on what turns out to be the real definition:

A concise, carefully planned, and well-practiced description about your company that your mother should be able to understand in the time it would take to ride up an elevator. – Business Know-How

I definitely need one of these. When people ask me what I write, I ramble on for a minute and a half before realizing that they wanted the specifics of my artistic toil about as much as they want to know about the details of that gloomy co-worker’s stint on anti-depressants that one time when the girl he thought he was dating turned out to be dropping off for UPS / paid by his mother / a bipolar homeless person living in the next doorway over or something equally sad and boring.

When people connected to you socially ask what you do, they only care about two things. First, that you are OK (read = not scary or dull). Second, that you say something amusing or, barring that, something brief. It’s not that they will not come to love you and all the mindnumbing details of your personal attachment to your work with orphan blind newts that occupy your every waking hour, it’s just that you’re at a party right now and it’s neither the time nor the place to get into all that.

When people connected to you professionally ask what you do, they only care about one thing. Do you have anything to offer? That’s it. If they are peers or underlings, you must respond by saying something brief and pithy and preferably hilarious which will offer them a moment’s relief from the tedium of their work day. (Remember: hilarious = good, too clever by half = secretly hating you.)

If they are superiors or clients or, really, anyone else, you must tell them how you are interesting to them, which pretty much boils down to how you can help them make more money, either through direct contribution to their bottom line or by relieving them of some task they can’t stand – like writing coherent sentences or feeding their dog automatically through a combination of hydroponics and robots – and thereby freeing them up for Very Important Things.

I am down with this. Let’s call a spade a spade and acknowledge that deep, meaningful conversations or professional work will follow more quickly if you demonstrate right away that you have a confident grasp of a.) your work and b.) the current context.

In short, I like this new phrase and think that the next step is to find its antonym. I’m leaning toward a verb like “slow coaching” myself. If you want to discuss it, I’ll be in the north wing elevator between two and four tomorrow afternoon whittling down my pitch.

Categories: News, Nuisance, Miscellany


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One Comment on “The Elevator Pitch”

  1. CMC
    December 6, 2006 at 8:48 am #

    I really like this post. Austen-esque, really; non-fiction Austen.

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