Entrepreneurs are masters of the elevator pitch. From the moment a business idea hatches, to the creation of an actual plan, we love to condense a major concept into a bite-sized morsel. That sound bite is then tossed around at networking events, casual encounters or anywhere else we feel a sense of urgency to get our message across.
I’m not saying the elevator pitch is a bad thing. The problem is, its use has gotten a bit out of hand. Do we need an elevator pitch for everything? The standard practice in business seems to be shifting toward overly concise, even terse sentences that may not always send the right message. By confining your message to an elevator pitch, you could be failing to describe the true essence of your business. Your business premise may be very compelling, but you need more than an elevator pitch to make the most impactful statement about who you are, what you do, and why you do it. An elevator pitch simply won’t deliver passion behind the premise.
There is a backstory to your business that doesn’t fit into the confines of an elevator pitch. This narrative is often the one that captures interest because it describes the motivation behind what you do. When I was a broadcast journalist, I tried to find the unique angle behind every business. If you want others to remember you and your business, you need to find your own unique story. It’s not as hard as it sounds.
You can create this story by asking yourself a series of questions. How did I come up with the idea for my business? What gives me inspiration? What are my next steps and my eventual goals? Slowly but surely you’ll begin to develop a story that will pull others in so they won’t want just an elevator pitch. They’ll want to hear more.
Storytelling in a business context is a lot like any other kind of storytelling. You have a unique idea, experience and perspective. Weave it into a narrative that entertains, but don’t fall for the misconception that this story is a monologue. The best storytelling is interactive and takes place as part of the natural flow of conversation.
A well-told story will sound intentional but never sound rehearsed. Your delivery should allow for your conversation partner's natural questions and anecdotes. You'll likely have to improvise a little. Keep the basic points of your narrative the same, but learn how to tell it in a way that’s fresh and appropriate for the environment and context.
Intrigued by the idea of becoming a storyteller? Here are a few points to help you create and deliver a compelling and unique story:
- Deconstruct your elevator pitch. Look at every point you've crammed into it and imagine how those points would be expressed in a real conversation. Practice how you'd express those points as part of a longer story. You can do this to your mirror or with a trusted friend.
- Analyze your audience, because every audience is different. The basics of your story may stay the same, but your delivery will vary depending on the audience.
- Watch your audience for cues and respond accordingly. Go deeper if your conversation partner seems engaged.
- Your story will also change based on where you are. Consider whether you’re in a professional or personal setting, and adjust your narrative accordingly.
- Don't rush to tell your tale. Allow your audience to interject with feedback or questions to keep them engaged and interested.
Nobody knows your story as well as you, so it's up to you to share it. Give yourself more time than an elevator pitch and become a storyteller that every good businessperson truly needs to be. Your story will start to unfold like a living thing, shaped by the communication in which you're engaging. Ditch ditching the elevator pitch and invest some time and practice. Because there’s nothing we love more than a good story.
Roshini Rajkumar is a communication coach, radio host and columnist who's worked with Fortune 500 executives like the leadership of Bridgestone Americas and the Minnesota Vikings on perfecting business communication. She's a frequent guest expert on national and local media analyzing the communication styles and blunders of high-profile people. Roshini is the author of Communicate THAT!: Your Toolbox for Powerful Presence. For more information visit CommunicateThatBook.com.