Forget Everything You Knew About Elevator Pitches and Try This Instead

The baklava approach.

Reinhard Krull / EyeEm/Getty Images
Reinhard Krull / EyeEm/Getty Images

Have you ever been in a situation where you know your idea to be absolutely true and the other person has a different view on the subject and you just couldn’t convince them otherwise? Was that frustrating? Or maybe you found yourself in the middle of two people arguing and you could see how they both were somewhere right, yet they failed to communicate their point to the other person? Have you ever had to present yourself/an idea/a project in front of an audience and you failed to do so successfully? If you answered yes in any of the questions above, keep reading I am about to let you in on a family secret: The baklava elevator pitch.

But before I explain more about it let’s remember what an elevator pitch is. You know the story, you work in a high building, you walk in the lobby, you get in the elevator, you hit 56 and before the doors close you hear somebody “hey, wait hold the door!” and in comes your boss’s boss’s boss and the doors close. The metaphor with the elevator pitch is from the time the doors close and the time the doors open on level 56, something is supposed to happen and you are going to do it through the magic of an elevator pitch.

Let me tell you why this is a horrible idea

First of all, if you were your boss’s boss’s boss and someone is forcing all this information to you like that, I think it would feel like an ambush. “I was just trying to get to the elevator, what are you doing to me?” they might think. It is not even close to reality, plus it is not how things happen. Even if you want to get more headcount in that project or enhance your personal brand, I don’t think the way to do it is fire away to the person at the elevator.

Think of an elevator pitch is a short, concise summary of a complex, multi-layer topic. It could be “what do you do” or “how was that trip to Greece?” “How are you doing on that cross functional project you are working on?”

I was at a social gathering recently where two friends, Gus and Tom were in the middle of an argument. Gus was blathering for 4 minutes uninterrupted this enormous stream of words. There was nothing Tom could grab out of this. Nothing, that was not a good moment for Gus, nor for Tom, who was becoming more and more frustrated. That’s is a moment we all want to avoid. If you are in the hallway and someone asks, “How was the trip to Greece” and you start blathering, saying whatever comes into your mind and you talk for 4 minutes uninterrupted, it is a failure. But we do it all the time.

What can we do instead?

The next day I was describing the incident to my executive coach, while my grandmother Jasmine, was in the kitchen baking something delicious. We were brainstorming on what would Gus and Tom should have done differently, until my grandma came out of the kitchen and said: “I may not have the college degrees that you both have, but come in the kitchen, I want to show you something, that might help” We both followed her with curiosity. The smell of melted butter, cinnamon and cloves, triggered our noses the moment we entered the kitchen. “What makes a great baklava is both the phyllo dough and the butter”, she said. “Yes grandma, but what that has to do with communication?” I asked. “See this thin piece of dough, this is your idea”, she said and put a layer of phyllo on the saucepan. In order for you to be understood, you need the melted butter on top. The melted butter is a question that the other person will ask.” she said and begun to put layer after layer the sheets of phyllo, while brushing each one of them with butter.

“So, if you picture that pastry”, I turned to my executive coach, “my job delivering my elevator pitch, or any piece of information, is to lay down that very baseline. I am going to lay just a little bit and stop, and then you get to ask me a question and that is the butter. And then I lay down a little bit and then you ask me another question and then I lay down my third piece. “That is brilliant grandma, thanks!”

An elevator pitch is a dialogue

An elevator pitch is actually a conversation, tailored to the other person. It’s not even a speech at all, it is a dialogue. And how much more engaging is that? Wouldn’t we all like to be in a conversation as supposed to be flooded with information?

When I am asking you, “How is it going with that project?” I am asking you to lay down a piece of pastry and I am hoping you will allow me to brush my butter. What I do not want is for you to pull out 20 pounds of pastry and not leave me any time or space to butter it up. But then, this is what we tend to do, that is what Gus did at that meeting talking 4 minutes uninterrupted. So, when I ask, “How is that project going” and you give me just a little bit, because, by the way, you don’t know why I ask that question, you don’t know what I am interested in. My point is you lay down a little bit and listen for their interest. Let them ask the next question sooner. It is better for both parties to be involved rather than having one person saying what they want to say.

You are laying down that first layer of pastry and then you are inviting the conversation to continue but you are also listening for where this conversation going, that is going to serve the person asking the question and then serving yourself on building a relationship with them.

Tips for entrepreneurs

Keep your elevator pitch short: little pieces of information layered out one at a time, let the other person ask questions in between, remember, it is a dialogue.

When I am at a networking event and somebody asks me, what do you do? I say I am a transformation coach and I stop. I say 5 words to answer their question. And then I wait. Sometimes they just glaze over and other times they ask another question. When we are at a networking event and we start saying our elevator pitches, all we are trying to do is to build a relationship. When I answer the question and I stop talking then, they have the choice to talk and they think I am a great listener. That’s great! That is just relationship building.

I know sometimes when you are talking about something you are passionate about, it is hard to stop talking. It is challenging for a lot of leaders. Remember that the longer you talk the less effective you are. Remember the baklava approach!

Chrisa T.S

Chrisa T.S is a hypnotherapist who loves to guide and witness your transformation. Watch her Tedx Talk Here to get a huge dose of inspiration and mega amounts of confidence. Join her and find your true purpose in life. Start Here. Find her at her free Facebook Group Here

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