At some point in our lives, we all have faced (or will face) the dreaded elevator pitch, ie. a quick inventive clever speech that we say in an attempt to sell whatever we`re offering, such as ourselves, a product, a solution, an idea, etc. The catch is accomplishing this in approximately 90 seconds, hence the name elevator pitch, and leaving your recipient wanting to know more instead of just leaving. Elevator pitches tend to be between us and what we want. Maybe it’s a job, or that promotion you´ve always wanted, or a college acceptance, or even a date. Thus, there’s a lot of pressure riding on those seconds, so it’s no wonder that this can be a source of stress and nervousness for a lot of people. If you are one of these people, not to worry. Remember, we’re all in the same boat. How do we nail it?
Perhaps this answer may surprise you: through applied improvisation! Now you may have a knee-jerk reaction that says how is theatre going to help me. That’s ok. That’s completely normal. I’m here to get you through that knee jerk response and show you why it shouldn’t be a knee jerk response in the first place. Embedding improvisational skills into your elevator pitch can completely change how your recipients react to you and what you present.
So to address your concerns, it’s not theatre in the sense of Shakespeare holding a skull kind of way. It’s improvising! This is something you do everyday. It’s not like you rehearse every conversation or action before it happens. How you get out of bed in the morning isn’t a rehearsed play and the chat you have with the neighbor you randomly bumped into while grocery shopping isn’t based off of some Oscar winning script. You are already capable of improvising, it’s now just a matter of applying those skills to your elevator pitch and getting what you really want. So if you want to get that job, promotion, college acceptance, or date, read on.
Why use improv for this? To put it simply, an elevator pitch, regardless of what your selling, is essentially an offer, and improv is all about giving offers, accepting them, and building off of them to reach a goal. In unscripted gameplay, the goal is not reachable and the conversation/action is blocked if someone doesn’t succeed in giving or accepting offers. In this case, you won’t get what you want if you don’t provide a good offer with your elevator pitch. You want your elevator pitch interaction to work out like a perfect improvisation scenario where you offer something, your recipient accepts, and your goal is achieved!
So let’s dive into how improv is your elevator pitch secret weapon:
Every good elevator pitch requires confidence and audience engagement: I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t matter how much you know or what you’ve prepared if you cannot effectively present and share it with others. An elevator pitch packed with loads of facts, data, knowledge, jokes etc. means absolutely nothing if it isn’t delivered with conviction. Think about the people you’ve talked with recently. Who do you positively remember? For me, the barista who made my morning coffee today told me he liked my necklace before giving me my caffeine dosage with a smile. Maybe he was just being nice and didn’t actually like my necklace, but he said it with confidence and I remember it as a sincere interaction. If he had told me nice necklace in a monotone voice, with a straight face, without looking up at me, I would probably think otherwise.
Thus, it doesn’t matter what you say but how you say it. Don’t believe me? A famous 1967 mind study conducted by Dr. Mehrabian that is frequently cited today found that communication is 7% verbal, 38% vocal, and 55% visual. So we cannot simply rely on the words we say to have a successful elevator pitch. Here is where improvisation is your friend in that a lot of improv relies on how you say it. Improvisation improves how you communicate visually because it is based in movement and using movement alongside our words. Thus, through improv we become comfortable making movements while we speak and we become aware of what specific movements we are making. This helps to ensure we make the right movements that can be used to our advantage.
For example, often in an improv class you’ll be reminded to keep your hands out of your pockets. Why? Because it communicates a lack of presence and care. Perhaps that’s not the case. I sometimes keep my hands in my pockets to warm them up, but what I’m communicating with my body language is not positive to my recipients. Imagine receiving an elevator pitch from someone who has their hands in their pockets, or worse, crossed in front of them. Maybe they aren’t making eye contact with you. Would you give that person a job? Or a letter of acceptance? Would you want that person around you? No. Practicing improv makes us aware of how we present ourselves and if we can use that to our advantage, we’re gold.
So when you are giving an elevator pitch, think about the following: Where are your hands? Are they in your pockets/crossed in front of you or playfully supporting your words? How about your legs? Are they crossed/fidgeting or firmly planted on the ground? Are you making good eye contact? Is your voice ridiculously quiet or loud or at a normal speaking volume? Improv makes choosing positive body language effortless through group practice in creating a reality in an unscripted fantasy. Afterall in improv, you are the creator and storyteller who is responsible for bringing the fantasy to life. This skill will translate into how you present your elevator speech in that it’ll transform it into a captivating story without even changing it’s words. It lies in changing the presentation. Your body movements support your words rather than diminish them.
Improv will help you be more relaxed for your pitch: As we discussed earlier, elevator pitches can be quite stressful and nerve-wracking, and presenting a pitch that feeds off of that anxious energy will not benefit you. So just relax. Super simple right? It can be simpler with applied improvisation as it allows you to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. You never know what will happen in improv, it is completely unpredictable. You don’t know where you are, who you are, who everyone else is, or what is happening until it’s unfolding on you in real-time. Responding in these improv settings can be just as stressful, but it’s meant to help you practice
managing fears and uncertainties, and it’s all in a low-stakes environment. You have nothing to lose. There are no wrong answers in improv. No matter what, you are supported and everything keeps flowing through that acceptance of “Yes, and.” With practice in being put in situations where you manage various unknowns, that fear that comes alongside them lessens and disappears. You keep flowing.
You’re elevator pitch does not need to be rooted in nerves and fear. It doesn’t have to be dreaded. It can be a fun speech rooted in your power. It’s funny sometimes to think that the only thing standing between us and what we want is 90 seconds. Don’t waste them. Want to learn how to rock your elevator pitch? Please do not hesitate to contact Christiana here at ChristianaFrank.com or our partners at Team Building On Purpose and KidScape Productions. We would be thrilled to provide you with all the information you need to give a superstar elevator pitch through our onsite trainings, private sessions, online courses, virtual seminars, and workshops.