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Work That Pitch – But Not On The Elevator!

By January 4, 2019January 14th, 2019No Comments
J. Kelly Hoey - Build Your Dream Network

I am really not a fan of the elevator pitch.

Frankly, I don’t know what I find more distasteful: the prospect of one more impersonal elevator pitch (for funding or a product) landing in my inbox or having the exact same information barked in my face for 90 seconds in lieu of an polite exchange of get-to-know-you pleasantries. For me, the awkwardness of a new introduction is heightened (whether it is at a party or reception or event) when I’m immediately forced to listen to the person’s well-rehearsed pitch. As a less than extroverted person, I do acknowledge that having something at the ready is rather useful in new or uncertain social setting (aka the “standard” icebreaker to crack the silence or ease the awkward moments). However, the formulaic elevator pitch has become a conversation killer and when used indiscriminately, ruins the prospect of making a truly meaningful connection.

An elevator pitch in a social setting should always invite “tell me more” conversation.

I’m not saying stop preparing or giving thought to how to share your idea, ambition or business venture. Your ideas are given wing when they are understood and spread via word-of-mouth. Keep talking about it. Show your excitement. Watch the facial expressions of the person you’re speaking with to see if your explanation is making sense. Use the touch-points from every interaction as the starting point to craft future conversations.

But back to the dreaded elevator pitch. There is one place I’m adamant where you have it ready to roll off your tongue without a glitch or hiccup: the Q&A session at a conference or event. As I share in my book “Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships In A Hyper-Connected World”:

Picture this typical conference Q&A session scenario for a moment. You’re at the Women Entrepreneurs Festival in New York City, and investor Joanne Wilson has just finished her key- note interview with Diane von Furstenberg. Joanne then opens up the remaining time for Q&A. You rush the microphone and . . . How do you maximize the moment when more than four hundred sets of conference-attendee eyes in a sold-out room are on you? With a well-crafted elevator pitch.

Most people blow the opportunity. They forget to say who they are. They don’t really have a question and just want to share their “smarts.” We’ve all sat through this. It is agonizing.

What you should do is say, “My name is X. I do Y,” or “My startup solves X problem,” or “I’m a student at Z. My question is, ______________.” Be quick, clear, and concise in connecting everyone in the room to who you are, what you do, and why they may just want to talk to you after the event. As for the insightful question you asked the speaker? It’s the perfect conversation starter, now, isn’t it?

And when you’re not in front of the microphone, here are my suggestions for handling the prospect of having to have or hear an elevator pitch:

  • Keep it simple. My own pitch is “I’m an author”. If someone wants to know more, they’ll ask “what did you write?” (and no, I’m not offended if they don’t).
  • Ask open-ended questions. If you’re hit in the face with a pitch, ask for an explanation (‘tell me more’) to move into a friendlier two-way dialog.
  • Be the host. Make it a point of bringing new people into conversations and personalizing introductions. Do this even when you’re not the host, your consideration will not be lost on others.


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J. Kelly Hoey

J. Kelly Hoey is a problem solver who believes that most professional challenges—whether funding, landing a board position or getting a new job—are solved by tapping into networks.Kelly is a popular speaker on networking, community building and investing issues, especially as they relate to women, and has worked with the IEEE, PGA, Bank of America, Apple and countless others. Follow Kelly on Twitter @jkhoey and on Instagram @jkellyhoey and join the #BYDN community at