Anytime we choose to start something new we almost never struggle with the excitement or the passion. This holds true with business ideas, jobs, relationship, hobbies, sports, you name it. Anytime we talk about the new thing, we get other people excited because of our excitement. As time passes, and we hit the inevitable speed bumps, that passion either disappears and we drop the new thing, or it evolves into something else.
Once that evolution takes place, we talk about it a whole lot less. One of the reasons for this is that we have now built a lot of context around that idea, person or job. After the honeymoon phase, when people ask about that particular idea or calling, we know that they are asking without the context we have built. We know that for them to understand why we still find it interesting, we will have to build some of that context. That’s not easy to do. It’s an absolute necessity though if we want to have a meaningful conversation about it.
Some people have a natural affinity for presenting a topic very clearly and succinctly. Most of us suck at it. There’s the motor mouths, who immediately dive in and start telling you everything about the topic and quickly lose you in the minutia. There are the clams, who typically respond to the question – ‘how’s work going?’ – with single word answers. The clams either don’t know how or don’t have the energy to provide the context in normal dialog. Then, there are the confusers. Confusers jump from topic to topic without finishing a thought. When you complete your conversation with a confuser, typically by making some excuse to escape, you walk away wondering what the hell they were talking about.
This behavior is very common. Explaining ideas and succinctly putting them in context is very hard to do. That’s why it’s so difficult to find good conversationalists. It is a skill. Like any skill, it can be improved. One of the best ways to improve this skill is by writing these big topics or ideas on paper. This is why journaling is such an effective tool. When you write in a journal you are having a conversation with yourself. It forces you to articulate the thoughts and the context that surround the idea, topic or concept. When you speak about them later, it’s not the first time that you articulated these ideas so you come across much more clearly and you make a far stronger impression.
The elevator pitch is the business extension of this approach. The term came from the early days of Hollywood when a screenwriter would ‘coincidentally’ run into an unsuspecting executive on an elevator then try to pitch them on their idea for a script. On that roughly 30 second ride, they had a completely captive audience. The goal of the pitch is to present the idea quickly and completely enough to generate interest. Once that interest is generated, you can dive into the details at your leisure.
To create a strong elevator pitch, you have to think about your audience. An investor is going to think about the idea in an entirely different way than an end user. Be prepared to articulate the idea in the context of your audience. Once you have written the pitch, practice and test the hell out of it. Say it out loud to yourself 20 times. Time it. Test it on your inner circle. Once you have smoothed it a little, start testing it on random strangers that you meet at a party or a trade show. Use it so many times that when you speak about the idea it comes as naturally as breathing. You’re not concerned about the tangential elements of the idea because you have already debated them 100 times with other people. When you finally do end up giving the pitch to someone that might have an impact back on you, it just flows.
With those thoughts in mind, let’s use the elevator pitch for this venture as an example. This will start with the slightly rawer forms make its way to something more polished. This is still a work in progress. I’ve given it now about 10 times to my inner circle. Some things are working, some aren’t. Each time I give the pitch, I refine it a bit.
This is the first elevator pitch that is tailored to the user:
We all want to be the best version of ourselves. As kids, we aimed for the stars, we wanted to be astronauts, Olympic athletes, Rock Gods and Goddesses. Somewhere along the way, most of us ran into the rock wall of reality where we discovered a lot of those dreams were not what we thought. This brought disappointment that caused many to stop dreaming big, to start feeling like we settled. We still want to dream though, there’s a reason the self-help industry is worth $11 billion. We all want to be better versions of ourselves.
The problem is, we don’t know how. We buy books, and even read some of them. We watch inspirational videos. We go to seminars. This makes us feel better, fills us with resolution. Temporarily. Several weeks later we’ve fallen back into our old habits. Why? Part of it is that we lost the ability to keep score, to know if we are winning or not. As a kid, it was easy, you always knew where you stood: grades, sports, relationships. It was pretty cut and dry. As an adult, it’s a muddy mess.
We aim to change that. Our framework will let you keep score again. The score we keep will not be against others , it will be against your personal dreams and aspirations, against the best version of you. We’re not playing soccer, we’re playing golf. The only person you are really playing against is yourself. To do that, we will need to go on a journey of self-awareness. This begins with knowing thyself, building a baseline of where you are now then plotting a path of where you want to be. What does the best version of you look like and how do we get there? This is going to be hard work and it won’t be done overnight, but all good things in life are earned. We will do our best to make it fun along the way. With the framework of tools and advice we provide, we will prove to you that it is possible to become one with your better nature.
This is way too long but it has all the important elements in there.
Here is another one that is tailored to potential investors:
The self-help industry is worth over $11 billion dollars in 2017 and growing. Why? People are wildly unhappy. Two thirds of Americans don’t like their jobs, 15% loathe their work. We have an obesity epidemic on top of an opioid epidemic. The gap between rich and poor is widening while opportunity is shrinking. Not a pretty picture. However, a lot of the actual unhappiness stems from a feeling of a total lack of control over life.
We offer a framework of advice and personal management coupled with technology that helps people take back that control. We will guide our users through a journey of self-awareness setting realistic goals then hold them accountable for sticking to those goals. The technology harnesses the best practices of the disciplines of science, psychology, self-management and business management to give our users a sense of whether or not they are winning at life. We marry the science to fun by gamifying the experience which diminishes the pain of the hard work required to actually affect change in one’s life.
Once enough data is gathered, we will utilize artificial intelligence to optimize the advice given such that it is custom tailored to each personal profile. We are building a community of doers that thrive on actionable results, not an ethereal promise of results. Our aim is happiness through self-awareness.
This one is also too long. I practiced both of these out loud probably 5 times. I then took them with me on a camping trip with friends and continued to try them out. Some things worked, some didn’t. The biggest issue is that they are too much of a mouthful. Remember, the point of the pitch is just to generate interest. You are not going into every detail. Once interest is there, you will have plenty of time for detail later.
After a few rounds of iteration, I settled on this.
As a culture, we pride ourselves on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As a people, we are miserable. Look at the obesity epidemic sitting on top of the opioid epidemic. 2/3 of Americans don’t like their jobs. 15% hate em. No wonder the self-help industry is worth $11 billion and growing.
There’s a ton of factors that play into this unhappiness but one of the big ones is this feeling that we have no control over our lives. Our framework changes that. We provide our users with the tools and the technology to take that control back. We do this by helping them define what winning at life looks like and by having a lot of fun along the way.
I’m not crazy about it yet but the iteration continues!
This method of writing out an elevator pitch doesn’t need to exist solely in the business world. If there is a concept that you love talking about but aren’t an expert yet or if you just want to discuss a couple of ideas with friends, taking this approach can help you communicate the tougher stuff a lot better. At the very least, it will generate a lot more interest.