Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Elevator Pitch - "You Talkin' To Me?"

Can Your Oldest Living Relative Understand What You're Pitching?

By David Miranda

In the Martin Scorcese film, Taxi Driver, Robert DeNiro had one of the great lines in cinema, "You talkin' to me?" which he delivered, by the way, in a mirror. He was talking to himself.

I have been the recipient of countless elevator pitches. While listening to the presenters, I often think of that scene from Taxi Driver, repeating the phrase silently to myself. These people might as well be talking to themselves alone in a mirror because most time, I just don't get what they're pitching. Quickly my receptors shut down just like my laptop does when I have too many programs going at the same time.

What happens? The pitch was designed for the presenter and not the audience and the presenter doesn't know his or her audience.

Here is a view from those of us that want to be good audiences:

  • we are busy; we have A.D.D.; we hear lots of pitches - get to the point quickly

  • don't use a lot of jargon only understood by industry insiders

  • eliminate the hyperbole, i.e. the best, the greatest, the next "Google" etc. - no one's gonna buy it. If it is good or great, let your audience, not you, state it.

  • make your pitch a dialogue not a monologue. Encourage your audience to interrupt with questions during the pitch.

  • don't distribute leave-behinds unless people request them and don't distribute them before you begin. They will thumb through it while you are talking which is not a good idea.

  • If you have 15 minutes, make it 15 minutes or, preferably, shorter. If your audience wants to go over the alotted time it means they are interested. If you go over the allotted time, it means you are not prepared.

  • Don't feel compelled to use a powerpoint, unless your audience wants to see it. Offer first.

  • If you do use a powerpoint, try it out on someone first under the same conditions you will present. Can your guinea pigs read the slides? Are there too many bullet points?, too much animation?, too much data?, too many slides?, too many charts?, simply too much "stuff" to comprehend? etc.

  • don't assume your audience is either real smart or real dumb. The best communicators of the most challenging concepts make it palatable for everyone.
Remember that unless you enjoy talking to yourself, it is your audience that you have to convince to buy what your selling. So don't pontificate. Don't complicate. Don't exaggerate. Don't orate. Don't bloviate. Just communicate - like you are speaking to your oldest living relative. Chances are if they get it, so will everyone else.