Going up! The elevator pitch

I’d never heard the term “elevator pitch” until my friend Angie came out with it at a meeting of Stories in the North. I’ve used it for years – I just never knew what it was called.

I’m saying “elevator pitch” like I have one. In fact, I don’t have one – I have several. Chances are that you’ll have several, too. I have an elevator pitch for each of my novels-in-progress, one for short fiction, one for non-fiction, one for the Writer’s Dominatrix and one for Poet-for-Hire. I have one for my work as a bookmaker (the kind with pages, not the kind with ponies) and one for pottery, although I use that one much less now.

The elevator pitch is your synopsis, your mini-resume, your thirty-second chance to tell someone what you do and, with any luck at all, impress the hell out of them. It needs to be short and pithy, catchy, and absolutely something you can follow through on. The one I use depends on my focus and my audience. My non-fiction elevator pitch goes something like:

I write local events for the Sault Star and pet-related articles and blogs for print and online. I have pieces coming out in Canadian Living and Old Farmer’s Almanac. I also used to do folklore and humour for CBC; I was “Shepherd in Residence” on Richardson’s Roundup.

This is the script – more or less. It’s under fifty words – short enough to get through in two breaths. It mentions genres and specialties, clients and the fact that I work in print and online. Of course, delivery depends on who I’m speaking to at the time and whether I think they might be interested in hiring me.

The main points are that I’m versatile (news, humour, pet-related, folklore) but focused (I don’t say “I can write anything” and I don’t tell them everything I write). I’m internet-savvy enough to write for online (nobody needs to know I’m a technophobe), and can still handle traditional venues. I have clients known locally (Sault Star), nationally (Canadian Living) and internationally (CBC, Old Farmer’s Almanac). A surprising number of people still remember the “Shepherd” gig.

I wavered over putting in the humour reference, but I’ve found that many people think humour is difficult to write, and are impressed with the fact that I do it. They’re even more impressed that I do it to schedule. (I write five humour columns every month; two biweekly for each of two online clients and one monthly one in print.)

If someone asks, “So, you’re a writer – what do you write?” you don’t know whether or not they’ll follow up with, “I need X written – are you up for that?” But if they might, you want to impress them with what you can do.

Your homework for this week, class, is to think about what it is you do, and how you would tell someone in fifty words or fewer. “Um”, “Uh”, “Sorta” and “just” are forbidden words. Make it snappy, catch my interest. My floor is coming up.

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2 Responses to Going up! The elevator pitch

  1. Elizabeth,
    You give a vivid example of how someone who does “everything” – a broad span, but focused – in Drucker’s sense “sticks to the knitting”. In Kanata Kareer Group, we tell job seekers no more than 25 words and a 10-12 sentence is ideal. Make normal eye contact at the beginning of that sentence. If there’s actual interest, add another sentence or two. Remember to pause for breath. And remember that rarely do you make an instant sale on first encounter because of your elevator pitch. Pique their interest, don’t turn them off.

  2. Pingback: Author Sticks to Knitting | The Portable You™

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