Don’t Over Engineer Your Elevator Pitch

You walk into a crowded conference hall. The air in the exhibit hall seems to stand still. If you wanted a breath of fresh air, you came to the wrong place.

People are bustling energetically amongst booths, tables, demo stations, attempting to learn the latest technology, find a new job, or pass the time until the next presentation begins.

You are on a mission to meet new folks, to network, to forge connections.

You show a smile as a young woman approaches. You give yourself an internal pep talk. Good posture. Check. Eye contact. Check.

When it's time to shake hands, what do you say?
When it’s time to shake hands, what do you say?

You outstretch your hand as the woman approaches.

She smiles and says hello as her hand meet yours in a firm, strong handshake.

You exchange names, comment on the conference, and she asks you:

“So what do you do?”

“I work to grow the Agile community through positive online and offline interactions.”

She responds with a half-interested, “Oh, that’s cool.”

“What do you do?” I ask, with hope to keep the conversation going.

“I work as a Business Analyst over the DSM and CSL divisions with dotted line responsibility to the Core Group,” she responds as she glances towards the conference floor.

“OK,” I say, and quickly realize that I have no idea what she just said. She lost me after Business Analyst. Everything else was a jumbled mess of acronyms and confusion.

The two of us strained to keep the conversation going for a few additional minutes, but this was a brutal task. She kept looking towards the door; I must have looked drunk on acronyms.

With the past as my guide, I now realize that this conversation could have gone smoother for the young woman and for me.

So what 3 things could each of us have done differently?

Elevator Pitch Tips:

  1. She set the conversation off in the wrong direction by asked the predictable, banal question: “So what do you do?” We all lean forward into a conversation when livelier questions are asked.


        • What brings you to the conference?
        • What has surprised you about the conference thus far?
        • What’s your biggest learning so far?

2. I bumbled and stumbled by replying to her question with the exact same question. How dull and unoriginal can I get? We were both guaranteed to remember nothing from a conversation when it stayed superficial and impersonal.

3. Despite your best intentions, some conversations will inevitably steer towards the basic question: “What do you do?” Give the follow up conversation some sparkle by replying with color, excitement, passion. Make it impossible for this conversation to stop with these elevator pitches:

  • “I build bridges between the development team and management. “
  • “I create atmospheres of innovation and collaboration for my team.”
  • “I turn first-time Web site visitors into life-time subscribers.”

Use these tips to your advantage and make your next conference experience full of exciting, memorable conversations. You’ll be well on your way to turning attendees into lifelong business connections.

Until next time, 

Dan Naden

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