Elevator pitches are good in theory -- take a complicated concept and distill it into a short message. Most of the time, however, they don't make sense, and all too often they include trite buzzwords like "synergy," "maximize," or "Web 3.0." The problem is, most pitches are very forgettable and don't encourage further discussion.
Most things can -- and need to be -- boiled down to short, concise comments. But how do you keep them short, make them memorable, and open the door to potential business? You need all three to turn a short discussion into a hot lead. Even if you have the best elevator pitch, if you tell someone exactly what you do and they can't see how they can benefit from it, the discussion is over.
There are two great books that you can use to help guide you in the process of creating a short, compelling message that resonates with the listener and speaks to his or her needs. Both of these are built to help you communicate better, and who among us couldn't benefit from that?
Made to Stick is a funny yet brilliant book on why some ideas stick in your mind and others don't stop as they pass from one ear to the other. Chip and Dan Heath explain how some ideas and stories are very catchy (sticky) without any marketing budgets, yet most ad campaigns are very forgettable. They built a framework of six principles that sticky ideas have: Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions and Stories (or "success" without the last S).
The case studies in Made to Stick are as interesting as Blink and Freakonomics, but you get tangible benefits instead of just fun reads. I had to take a number of breaks while reading to jot down ideas that I could apply to my business. I challenge anyone to read this book -- including the non-business people out there -- and not think of new ways to improve your communications.
Good in a Room explains successful communication and teaches actual tactics. Stephanie Palmer (a former movie executive) consolidated her experience listening to thousands of pitches and developed a plan on how to convey a simple, clear message. Much of her direction is counterintuitive, but it's dead-on accurate.
The advice in Good in a Room is not just for Hollywood types, or even just for business types. I love the secret deal breakers -- things you don't know you're doing but that kill you before you even get started. (This is also a great book for singles -- you'll learn how to use a teaser to garner interest.) Consider it a great guide to a stellar first impression.
Read both of these books, and you'll find that creating a memorable first impression is not impossible. It's certainly not easy, but you'll have the tools you need to hone your pitch. Just don't call it an elevator pitch.