Self-promotion doesn’t come easy to women in business, but it’s a huge factor in moving up or making more money—so we find a way to do it as comfortably as possible.
An “elevator pitch” is one of those self-promotional “musts” we’re told we need in the business world. But there are alternatives to this networking tool and the scripting, memorizing, and practicing it involves.
Advocating for yourself
If you’re not a fan of the elevator pitch, don’t feel you must force yourself to create one. These ubiquitous little introductions are simply not a requirement, branding and marketing expert Ariana Ayu points out in an Inc.com article. “Contrary to popular belief, you really don’t need an elevator pitch, at least not in the traditional sense,” she writes.
Ayu adds that a scripted elevator pitch can be problematic: If you forget your lines, you look bad. If you remember your lines, you sound stiff and rehearsed.
Talk, don’t pitch
Instead of memorizing a pitch, here are four actions women in business can take to let people know who they are and what they offer:
Appeal to your audience through rapport. In her article, Ayu advises getting better at listening to the other person and responding to him or her: “Truly listen to the person you’re speaking with. It’s the only way to create a valuable connection.”
Further, she says, get to know your market, products, skills, and abilities inside out. As Ayu notes, “You still need to have an answer to the question ‘What do you do?’”
Be brief and to the point. “You need to give them a short, interesting summary,” writes Alison Green, founder of AskAManager.org. “If the other person is thinking, ‘Oh, I’m hearing an elevator pitch,’ that’s a failure.”
Rajesh Anandan, writing on Unreasonable.is, advocates for one quick, attention-grabbing introduction. “While you may have heard over and over again that you’ve got just 30 seconds to deliver your elevator pitch, the reality is that you have about one-fifth of that,” he writes. “You’ve got six seconds to tell your story, or at least to tell the audience why they should care enough to get to know your story.”
Tell a story about what’s unique about you. In an article on WorkItDaily.com, career coach and author Dorothy Tannahill-Moran advocates for a more concise story—maybe just one sentence—that only you can tell. “If you do nothing else, spend time truly getting what differentiates you, what causes you to stand out,” she writes.
Practice and improve your delivery, whether or not you’ve memorized a pitch. Speak slowly and modulate your voice. Many people say their names too quickly, according to Laura Sicola, founder of Vocal Impact Productions in Philadelphia. During a TEDx talk, she demonstrated a technique for getting people to hear and remember your name: Raise the pitch of your voice on your first name, pause, then let your voice go back down on your last name. This signals “‘Now I’m done,’” Sicola says. “You’ll be amazed at the difference the strategic tonality can make.”
Your goal is to communicate who you are. How you do that—by using an elevator pitch, telling a story, or just starting a conversation—depends on what feels comfortable to you.
Practice your story or elevator pitch delivery at one of AMA’s Women’s Leadership Center events. Learn about the benefits of WLC membership and upcoming classes and activities.