Born in the Golden Age of Hollywood when screenwriters would corner Producers on their morning ascent and popularized in the 80’s at networking events everywhere, the Elevator Pitch stemmed from the the inquiry, “What would you say if you had 45 seconds in an elevator with an Executive from your dream employer?”
Respectfully referred to as the “30-second spiel” or the “60-second introduction”, the Elevator Pitch served a critical purpose: It made us aware of the importance of being able to succinctly, compellingly and clearly articulate our professional value on the spot.
Although few professionals have had the privilege of engaging the Elevator Pitch in an actual elevator, it’s served it’s purpose in many other environments including: being a popular introduction at countless professional association meetings, getting modified for the Summary Statement at the top of millions of resumes, and standing in as the answer to the frequently asked interview question, “Tell me about yourself.”
Without the Elevator Pitch, we would’ve rambled on pointlessly when meeting new people, discussed trivial topics like the weather, or resorted to awkward bouts of silence. It’s structure and brevity has helped us hone in on our greatest strengths, promote our accomplishments in a results-based manner, and ensure we included a call-to-action that would lead to new opportunities and contacts.
A universally understood and culturally accepted form of introduction in the business world, the Elevator Pitch inspired us to initiate conversations, gave us a platform to sell ourselves, and offered confidence in stressful moments when our brains would have otherwise failed us. It made us feel prepared. Safe. Ready.
Despite it’s many benefits, the Elevator Pitch had it’s faults. Engaging it in large groups could cause widespread panic as we struggled to get it just right. And it was never “right.” Because if we delivered it flawlessly, it often sounded robotic, rehearsed and inauthentic, which meant that the whole point of making a connection with our audience was lost.
The Elevator Pitch was also a product of the times, capturing the Zeitgeist of the pre-Instagram job search era. It was a pioneer that catapulted many to career success, but sadly lost the battle to technology advances and a new digital language.
Sixty seconds turned into 140 characters. Attention spans dwindled and words gave way to graphics and .gifs and memes. We used elevators to check our smartphones instead of conversing, so even if we were standing right next to the Founders of the hottest start-up on their way to the 49th floor, they didn’t actually exist without an online presence. The world became the Matrix, a cross between what was real and what was on social media.
People no longer wanted to be “pitched” to. They wanted to be engaged, to be a part of something, to be inspired. “Connecting” took on a new meaning. It’s no longer about the speech delivered by the speaker, but the message heard by the receiver.
Ahead of it’s time, the Elevator Pitch strove for this, but always seemed to get tangled up in mechanics and miss the mark.
Misunderstood and secretly dreaded by many, the Elevator Pitch was a steadfast partner to countless job seekers and a trusty technique celebrated by numerous career coaches. It is survived by our brand, actual two-way dialogue, and many DIY online mediums for sharing content, photos, and our message, in whatever form that may take.
RIP Elevator Pitch. You’ve had a good run.