I don’t buy into the one-minute elevator pitch.

Let me clarify. I’m totally into the idea of a compact presentation of one’s self and one’s business. I just have three issues with the one-minute elevator pitch: One minute is too long; you’re only in elevators 0.0000001% of the time (yes, I made that up); no one wants to be pitched.

The classic elevator pitch is too long, and it’s trying to accomplish too much, too soon.

As Seth Godin puts it, no one ever bought anything on an elevator.

For your opener, strive instead for a memory dart—a single phrase with a vivid image that can be delivered before the elevator door closes.

Here’s an example.

Q: “Good to meet you, Steve. What is it you do?”

A: “I’m the world’s only Clarity Therapist. In under a day, I help individuals and companies discover their professional 'fit' and distill it into a clear, compelling message.”

BOOM! A provocative dart, not a canned pitch.

That opening verbal thrust accomplishes three things:

  1. It makes you immediately memorable. You’re leaving an image behind (preferably via an effective analogy).
  2. It quickly establishes if there is a potential area of need (not only with that individual, but with someone they might know).
  3. It opens the door to say more by invitation, at which time you can take a minute or two to tell a condensed story. (“So, how do you do that?“)

A one-minute elevator-pitch is one step premature. In the first 10 seconds, we need to capture attention, be memorable, and provoke an invitation to tell the story. That’s what a memory dart does. It's your verbal business card.

It sounds easy, but creating your memory dart one of the hardest communications challenges you’ll ever face. Distilling purpose/offering/message to one sentence and wrapping it into an image or analogy takes tremendous creativity and hard work. But since this is your first foot forward in every professional introduction, where your goal is to cut through the fog and be remembered—nothing else is more important.

It’s astounding how much time and effort (and money) companies will put into ineffective marketing campaigns, when the most vital thing is the verbal welcome mat of a memory dart. Start there, and everything else will fall into place.

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Three Reasons to Ditch the Elevator Pitch

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image of Steve Woodruff

Steve Woodruff is the world's only Clarity Therapist. He connects people with their purpose, their message, and with other people in order to create new business opportunities. He writes at the SteveWoodruff.com.

Steve is an unusual hybrid of conceptualizer, strategist, marketer, analyst, wordsmith, semi-techie, and all-around decent fellow, except when there's bad coffee or lousy wine.

Steve can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn.