The easiest elevator pitch to deliver

Plenty of people worry about getting stuck in elevators, but what about going into labor in one? Katie Thacker of Spanaway, Wash., was one surprised mother-to-be when she got stuck in an elevator at the hospital right before she was to give birth. Baby Blake "couldn't wait any longer," the Seattle Times reported, and was born in the elevator weighing 7 pounds and 15 ounces. Thankfully Thacker had nurses in the elevator to help, and the baby was born with a healthy cry.

I'm terrible at delivering elevator pitches. While some people are great at making a wonderful first impression on potential clients, to me making an elevator pitch feels forced and obvious, so I usually chicken out and console myself by rationalizing that impromptu encounters with people in need of a ghostwriter aren't likely anyway.

Fortunately there's another way. If you're shy, hesitant, or just unsure, here's a solution: Get people to ask for your pitch. It's easy. You just need a conversational hook.

Example: I was standing beside a young man at a reception and I asked what he does. (I recognize my opening line shows I'm far from a sparkling conversationalist.)

He said, "I crash websites."

I thought for a second. Did I hear that right? "You do what?" I asked.

"I crash websites," he said. "Our clients hire us to dramatically increase traffic to their websites, so we make it our goal is to generate so much traffic their sites crash. If the site doesn't crash, we feel like we failed. We try really hard not to fail."

Here's what makes his elevator pitch different. He didn't lead with descriptions of SEO techniques or PR stunts or link strategies. We talked about those subjects later after I was hooked. I had to find out what they did to create so much traffic that a site would crash. He turned what could have been a forgettable pitch into a memorable conversation. Due to the nature of my business I'll never be a potential client, but if someone asks for a recommendation, I'll point that person in his direction.

Typically, the key to a successful elevator pitch is to quickly size up the other person, decide what you hope to achieve, and whip out the right pitch from your mental card file. When you get the other person to ask questions, sizing them up and providing the information they need is almost automatic.

If you're like me, and elevator pitches makes you feel uncomfortable or awkward, try a different approach. Forget your vision statement or mission statement or unique selling proposition. Think about what you really do - and how customers benefit from what you do. Then create your own conversational hook.

Elevator pitches are a lot easier when your pitch isn't a pitch at all. When you get potential customers to ask questions, you've turned your pitch into a conversation.

Having a conversation is something anyone, no matter how shy or hesitant, can do well.

  • Jeff Haden On Twitter»

    >> View all articles

    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.