The “elevator pitch” is a short introduction about yourself and your business to people you meet through networking, business connections, or just about anywhere. Most professionals utilize the usual 30 seconds to simply state their name, position and company they represent. While this is a common format, this approach is not the most effective.
The elevator pitch is an opportunity to not only make a memorable first impression, but it is also an opportunity to engage the listener and possibly win a new customer. Carmine Gallo wrote “Mastering the 30-Second Pitch” for NewsWeek in 2005 and notes, “…how you pitch the story behind your small-business’s services, products or companies means the difference between making a sale and being shown the door.” Likewise, if you want a new network connection to set up lunch for additional information next week, how you introduce yourself makes a big difference.
Gallo, a corporate presentation coach, suggests turning your bland introduction into a 30 second story. To do this, ask and answer four questions to yourself: What is my service, product, company or cause? What problem do I solve (or what demand do I meet)? How am I different? Why should you care?
Once you have answered the four questions, combine the condensed answers together into your elevator pitch. This story should leave the listener to wanting more information about what you do rather than an excuse to get away from you. Once you have crafted your elevator pitch, practice it until you have the 30 seconds memorized.
While there are a lot of jokes and humor portrayed to the public about the fears associated with public speaking, many professionals are forced to overcome their fears in order to conduct business. Entrepreneurs push further into public speaking when engaged in raising money for the company, securing partners or winning new customers. However, there are many forms of communications business leaders need to be prepared to engage in throughout the cycle of business. In business, you will have the opportunity to lead meetings, give sales presentations, present your company to investors, present your company to the public, speak at company events or community events, and provide informational or motivational speeches. Each speaking situation requires different behaviors and preparation.
To prepare for your business presentation, know your audience. What kind of information is your audience looking to learn about? How many will be in attendance? How old are they and how long will their attention span last? What time of day will the presentation be given, will the audience have eaten right before? The more you know about the audience, the better you will be able to tailor your presentation to their needs.
Understand where your presentation will be given and how much time you will have to give your presentation. Know the environment you will speak in, and ask if it will be in large conference room or a small meeting room? Will it be warm or cool in the room? Where is the presentation going to take place, and do you know how to get there? Will there be a projector available? If not, do you need one or do you need to bring one? How much time should be left for the audience to ask questions?
The presentation should not consume the full speaking time as time should be set aside for questions during the full presentation. Memorize your opening and closing statements, but use notes to guide you through the body of the presentation. Either keep a watch or have a timer assist you in keeping your presentation to the allotted time.
PowerPoint has become a standard tool in delivering business presentations, but PowerPoint can be overdone easily. In creating the PowerPoint slides for your presentation, utilize a clean template that does not interfere with the information you wish to portray. Utilize information on your slides that will grab the audience’s attention that is not redundant with your speech. Use PowerPoint to enhance and enforce your words rather than repeat what you are saying. Limit the special effects and animations on the slides as much as possible, these effects are more distracting than enhancing. Lastly, utilize “eye” words within the slides. Charts, graphics, bullet points and more are visuals that speak to the “eye.”
Delivering a presentation takes practice and the ability to overcome the fears associated with speaking in front of others will subside over time. Most people will engage in a nervous habit while they are speaking, so practice will allow you to become aware of your habits and work towards overcoming those (such as twirling hair, rocking back and forth, stuttering, knuckle cracking and so forth).
When giving a presentation to a large audience, practice standing in one place with good posture and keeping your arms and hands in a comfortable position where they are not touching anything else on your body. If there is a podium available, utilize it to keep you in one place and avoiding nervous body movements. You will also want to be aware of your clothes, are they appropriate for the environment? Make sure your clothes will not hinder your presentation in any way (avoid “wardrobe malfunctions”).
Once you have mastered your body position, practice utilizing your voice in an appropriate manner. Knowing your audience will help you know what tone of voice to use, how loud a voice to use and what vocal pitch to use. Too monotone sends a very clear picture to an audience just as a cheerleader voice would. Depending upon your audience, you will want to utilize a variety of vocal cues to emphasis key components to your presentation.