(Editor’s note: Eric Tsai is a web strategist at Designdamage. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)
Have you ever tried to tell someone about your online business or your idea for a business – but when you did, their eyes glazed over? You feel stupid or self-conscious because you know they’re bored, confused or just don’t get it.
The truth is we’re already so inundated with information and overloaded with work everyday that it’s hard to interest us in anything. In fact, most of us happen to think, say and do the same things everyday. We just do it with slight variations. (That’s why you can’t help wanting to check your emails, tweets and text messages to see what’s fresh coming down the information pipeline. It’s human nature.)
So how do you talk about what you do in a powerful way that will not only make people stop and listen, but will keep their attention? The answer: You need an elevator pitch – a way for you to instantly spark interest from your audience.
The first trick is to be specific and focus on the problem you solve. An elevator pitch isn’t about your personal mission to change the world. Focus on the specifics.
The critical mistake that most people make when asked “what do you do” is that they either go with a micro-level answer – telling people their daily tasks – or the macro-level answer of describing the industry they’re in.
The problem? Everyone has a different perception of what a computer programmer does or what it means to be working in sales. In fact, the less specific answer you provide, the more confusing it gets.
Instead of talking about abstract concepts, focus in on how you help people – specifically, the problem(s) that you solve. It’s should not be your personal mission to change the world, because most people are process-orientated. The ugly truth is nobody really cares about what you do; it’s about how you do it.
The elevator pitch isn’t about selling or fancy words. It’s a way to effectively wake up people from their daily routines and sparks their curiosity.
Don’t try to impress them with jargon. Great pitches make sense to people. Fancy words or phrases require your audience to figure out what you’re talking about – which leads to disconnects and confusion. Use simple words that are easy to understand.
It should sound like something that happens in the real world that’s tangible, external, measurable and specific.
Now that you know the key elements of a compelling elevator pitch, here is a simple template to use when creating yours:
Start by saying, “you know how some people have this problem? (which happens to be the problem or challenge you solve) Well, I offer this solution. (which is how you solve it)”
Notice how you are not describing your business or the process of what your product does.
Here is an example – an elevator pitch for eBay.
You know some people have stuff they want to get rid off but don’t want to give it all away for free? Well I offer a website that allows them to auction anything off to the highest bidder.
To take this even further, you could narrow it down to a specific group of people and their problems. For example…
You know how parents after their kids are grown want to get rid of all their baby stuff without giving it all away for nothing? Well, I offer an online auction website that lets them sell their used baby stuff within a week or we’ll offer to buy it from them. Do you know any parents that want to get paid with their used baby stuff?
Remember, you can tailor the pitch to fit any scenarios or situation depending on your audience. This way you’ll have different versions of your elevator pitch to use when you meet a friend, an investor, a partner or a prospective customer.