This may come as a shock to some of our readers, especially the 25-35 year old college educated population our analytics say we reach, but there was a time when business deals originated face-to-face; mano y mano.

The Lost Art of the Elevator Pitch

By Brian D. Aitken,  Founder & Chief Creative Director of Alister & Paine. Brian is an expert in digital media and founded the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with a Marketing & PR package to help promote entrepreneurism and accelerate America’s economic recovery. Brians work and expertise has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, FOX Business, CNBC, and Yahoo News.

This may come as a shock to some of our readers, especially the 25-35 year old college educated population our analytics say we reach, but there was a time when  business deals originated face-to-face; mano y mano.

During this time men still wore suits to work and people rode the elevators to visit clients and prospects and not just to grab a smoke by the back door… back then people smoked their Turkish Golds by the front door—but isn’t that the point? Hasn’t a lot changed since then?

Many years ago, before the casual transformation of business via BBMing, professionals were expected to craft a perfect elevator pitch aka ’30 second commercial’. These pitches were a work of well thought out mindfulness—straight to the point, in thirty seconds or less, before your elevator buddy got off at their floor. The pitch answered the most obvious questions: who you are, who you work for, what you do, why you’re different, and how to reach you… the last part being a perfect segue into handing this complete stranger your business card.

Alas, this was back during a time when strangers actually talked to each other in elevators. The last time I thought a stranger was talking to me in an elevator she turned out to be on her Bluetooth and glared at me for being so infantile as to presume she’d actually be striking up conversation with me… the only other person in the elevator.

Apologies for the tangent. I believe I was in the middle of telling you about the art of the elevator pitch, a useful arrow in the quiver of businessmen past, and was about to explain how the elevator pitch is just as relevant today as it was twenty years ago—but then I went off on that tangent about those damned bluetooths.

The fact of the matter is that from time to time you still interact with humans verbally. Albeit, this is a rare occasion. But doesn’t the rarity of the occasion make the content and delivery of the pitch all the more important?

Case in point: have you ever been at a party and asked someone ‘So, what do you do?’, only to be assaulted with some bumbling long winded recount of childhood ambitions and how they came to sell insurance? After thirty seconds you’re thinking ‘Well, they ought to be wrapping this up momentarily…’ but ten minutes later the guy is still droning on and your eyes are desperately darting around the room looking for someone to save you. Not to mention you’re certainly not going to buy insurance from him.

The elevator pitch can save you from being ‘that guy’ and, trust me, people will appreciate your candor. Keep the pitch short and sweet and move the conversation to them. What do they do? How long have they been doing it? What do they do outside the office? This kind of conversational volley may turn you into their ‘go-to-guy’ instead of being the narcissist everyone else at the party avoids at all costs.

This antiquated practice has some more modern applications as well. The elevator pitch can be easily modified into the introduction for a well crafted e-mail marketing campaign and may very well save you from sending yet another anonymous e-mail from the corporate ether. Just like in conversation, after a few impactful sentences all the formalities are over with and you can get down to business.

We live in a very anonymous corporate world with lots of transferred calls and no faces to put to a name. Introducing yourself briefly adds reassurance and accountability. Begin your introductory e-mails with your elevator pitch and people will realize there’s a human on the other end…that you’re not actually a corporate spambot.

Remember, you are not the company you work for and you are not ‘Customer Service Agent #856’. You are you. You are a person. Embrace your humanity and, if you’re bold enough, go strike up a conversation with a complete stranger… in an elevator.