It is a fact that opportunity doesn’t always knock. Sometimes it suddenly appears with no forewarning. Such as when you find yourself alone on an elevator with the hiring manager for a job you sorely want, or a department head who could greenlight a project you’ve been working on for months. At times like those, it pays to have the equivalent of a game-saving strikeout pitch up your sleeve. All you need to do is plan your delivery and – like a good pitcher – practice it until it becomes second nature. Let’s take a look at the process.
Who Needs It?
Without exception, the HR pros with whom I’ve discussed the subject agree with Paul Richardson, ESPN’s SVP, human resources, that “every professional should have an elevator speech: a clear, concise, compelling explanation of what they or their company does and the benefit they provide.”
Time Warner Cable actively encourages each of its managers to have such a mini-presentation and to encourage their team members to do likewise. The reason “is to help each person feel prepared to interact with people they may not know well or have limited exposure to, like top executives," said TWC EVP, human resources Tom Mathews.
Some employees might consider having two or more versions on hand to suit the occasion and the unanticipated audience. For instance, anyone who is pitching a new idea, business plan or project, or seeking a job (whether inside or outside the company) would do well to craft a 30- to 60-second sound bite tailored to his or her objective.
What Do You Say?
At an introductory meeting, TWC’s Mathews suggests including the simple basics: “Your name, title, location and function, along with a brief description of what you or your team does and whom you interact with to accomplish these goals. When you’re speaking with someone you’ve met before, mention some ‘real time’ information such as the next place you are traveling or conducting a meeting, or some very succinct recent accomplishments. If it’s appropriate, mention something directly related to the individual you’re with. For example, ‘I found your presentation at the last CTHRA Symposium or your interview with CableFAX really interesting as we are doing…’”
If you are actively pitching a project or idea, present two or three examples of how and why your concept works and how it will benefit the company. Likewise, when your objective is landing a particular job, offer two or three reasons the position is right for you and vice versa.
Above all, stresses greenlightjobs.com pres Lisa Kaye: “Be authentic. Don’t try to impress for the sake of getting something you want. Be impressive because you have something of value worth sharing which will ultimately benefit others, not just you.”
Whether your brief exchange with a key decision maker was the result of an impromptu encounter or part of a planned meeting, send a follow-up note, either written or via email. Mention anything you may have learned during the conversation, as a key point or two from your speech that will help the recipient remember you.
Although it is true that having a ready-to-roll pitch can help you gain major benefits from brief, possibly unplanned interactions with influential contacts, be careful not to over-prepare for your time in the spotlight. In particular, don’t memorize specific words or phrases; if you do, you could come off sound stiff and mechanical. Instead, rehearse your presentation to be sure you know the key content you want to convey and can do it in a casual, relaxed manner. Practice on friends (or even your dog or a mirror) until you feel comfortable enough that you could chat with your company’s CEO in the elevator tomorrow morning. Remember, as legendary Hall of Fame catcher and Philadelphia A’s manager Connie Mack put it, “You can’t win any game unless you’re ready to win.”
(Pamela Williams is Executive Director of the Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association)