I was recently asked to discuss my reading habits and what I was learning from that effort. Funny enough, two books that caught my attention both carried a similar message–The Elevator Speech Is Dead.
In his second book Running the Gauntlet, author and marketing expert Jeffrey Hayzlett says the limited attention span of most people is a serious impediment to success. According to Hayzlett, if you are trying to convey an idea, you have eight seconds to “hook” the listener. If you’re successful, you’ll gain another 110 seconds to reel them in, with the rest of your story. Fishing metaphor aside, he makes an important point. The incredible shrinking human attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish.
Author Dan Pink in this latest book To Sell Is Human observes that elevator speeches have become passe’ in their current form. He identifies several new frameworks to replace the dying elevator speech including the clever;
One-word equity. When anybody thinks of you, they utter this word. When anybody utters that word, they think you.
The Question Pitch made famous by Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Campaign against Jimmy Carter. Think about it. You’ll remember the line.
The Rhyming Pitch used to great effect to by Defense Attorney Johnny Cochrane in his defense of O.J. Simpson, “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
To Sell Is Human also describes several other options for the now dead elevator speech including my personal favorite, the delightful PIXAR pitch which begins simply enough, “Once upon a time…”
Pink provides worksheets and exercises to help you sharpen your pitch. He also offers thoughtful suggestions and examples of how you can adapt your story to these various formats.
According to a study described by the former Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano, Americans are exposed to 3.7 zettabytes of data per year, much of it in the form of transient pixels from television and computers. It is very clear there is a lot of competition for people’s attention. Hayzlett and Pink both offer a great jump-start. The question for you is simple. What’s your story and how will you fascinate the listener? The next eight seconds will tell.