Did you know people today are suffering from INFObesity? They don’t want more information; they want to be intrigued and they want to be intrigued quickly. If you don’t say something in that single, crucial minute of your elevator pitch that gets their eyebrows up, they’ve already checked out, and that means your idea, organization, or cause will never succeed at the level it deserves.

Do you have clear, concise, and compelling responses that impress potential clients, employers, and sponsors? Does your opening pitch or paragraph capture people’s favorable attention and motivate them to keep reading and say, “Tell me more?”

Our goal is to turn one-way communication into two-way communication. Another way to do that is to create commonality by turning me, me, me into we, we, we.

A bright, talented 20-something was the one who role-modeled this for me. I was on a speaking tour with my sons and we had the night free. We went downstairs to the hotel lobby and asked the concierge what he suggested. He took one look at my teen-aged sons and said, “You’ve got to go to D & B’s.”

We were from Maui at the time and had no idea what he was talking about.

I asked him what D&B’s was, and this smart young man didn’t even try to explain: he knew intuitively that would only have confused the issue. He could have said, “Well, it’s kind of like a sports bar. But it’s more than that; it also has an indoor amusement park with video games and stuff. And the restaurant has pool tables but they also have…” but the longer he’d have talked, the more confused we would have become.

Instead, he asked a qualifying question: “Have you ever been to Chuck E. Cheese?” My sons nodded enthusiastically. He smiled and said, “D & B’s is like a Chuck E. Cheese for adults.” Bingo.

We then knew exactly what it was and we wanted to go there, all because this bright young man had a) asked a question that got relevant information and b) linked his response to what we just said. They should have put him on commission.

Monologue vs. Dialogue

That encounter yielded the following epiphany: the purpose of an elevator pitch is NOT to tell people what you do—that’s a monologue. The purpose of an elevator pitch is to create a meaningful conversation—that’s a dialogue. The next time someone asks you what you do, use this disruptive approach to turn a boring elevator pitch into bonding connection.

How Can I Bond With Someone in the First 60 Seconds of Meeting Them?

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“There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who walk into a room and say ‘Here I am’ and those who walk into a room and say, ‘There you are.’” – Ann Landers

Here’s my favorite example that shows the power of turning an elevator speech into an elevator connection: I was asked to speak at the 2008 INC.500/5000 conference, along with fellow authors and speakers Jim Collins of Good to Great , Seth Godin of Linchpin and Tribes, Michael Gerber of E-Myth, Tom Peters of In Search of Excellence, and Tim Ferris of 4 Hour Work Week. My workshop was on how to POP! Your Communication—in particular, how to POP! the first 60 seconds of any communication to win people’s attention, respect, trust, and business.

My session was one of the top-ranked sessions because we focused on how to introduce yourself in a way that turned strangers into friends and clients. I asked Colleen, Entrepreneur of the Year for her state, what it was she did.

After a couple of minutes of references to centralized medical diagnostic services—scanning devices, etc.—no one in the room had any idea what she did. This was not a trivial issue: she was surrounded by several hundred of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country, yet none of them understood what she did. That meant they wouldn’t be walking up to her afterwards to continue the conversation. They didn’t relate to her or remember her, which meant they wouldn’t be referring people to her or exploring possible strategic partnerships. Think of the millions of dollars in lost opportunities. That’s what happens (or what doesn’t happen) every time we introduce ourselves and people don’t get or want what we do.

Making the Connection

If we don’t connect in the first couple minutes, we’re probably not going to connect at all. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a better way to introduce yourself starting today.

I asked Colleen what she did that we we can see (pointing to my eyes), smell (pointing to my nose), taste (pointing to my mouth) and touch, (pointing to my hands). She asked why that was important. I told her that those questions switch focus from the means—trying to explain how electricity works—to the end results: how people use and/or benefit from what happens in the real world.

Colleen thought about it for a moment and said, “I run medical facilities that offer MRIs and CT scans.”

That reply was better because now we could see what she was talking about. Medical equipment, MRIs, and CT scans exist in the real world—they’re not just conceptual neck-up rhetoric. But we’re not going to stop there, because if someone just told people that, they’d just say “Oh.” An “Oh’ is better than a “huh?” because it means people now understand what job is being done, but there’s still no personal relationship. It’s still a one-way monologue instead of a two-way dialogue. Turn that into a question—using The Power of Three— that engages them and prompts them to give you relevant information that’s pertinent to your line of work.

She asked what the Power of Three Was.

I explained; “If you ask a question using only one point of reference, such as ‘Have you ever had an MRI?’ and that person says, ‘No’, the discussion is over. Instead, ask: ‘Have you, a friend or a family member ever had an MRI or a CT scan?’ Giving three points of reference increases the odds that people will come back with a personal experience such as, ‘Yeah, my daughter hurt her knee playing soccer and had an MRI.’ Now, relate what you do to what that person just said. ‘Well, I run the medical facilities that offer MRIs like the one your daughter had when she hurt her knee.”

That elevator intro will raise people’s eyebrows: they’ll be intrigued because they’re picturing a way they’ve used or benefitted from what you do. This has taken under 60 seconds, yet they could describe what you do to other people, turning them into a word-of-mouth ambassador. And, if they’re ever in the market for an MRI or CT scan, they’re a lot more likely to contact you, because people like to do business with those they know and like.

The first impression is obviously the first thing that occurs in any social interaction. Do you convey confidence?: How to Always Leave a Great First Impression

Featured photo credit: Vicky*B* via Flickr

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