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Imagine you apply for a dream job and you get invited to the interview. Now imagine you go to the interview and get on the elevator with no less than the CEO himself - and the elevator gets stuck for two hours! A nightmare? No! It's the best thing that ever happened to you - because now you've got the guy's undivided attention! His cell phone doesn't work, he can't conduct any other business - it's just you and him. Why not let him know who you are right then and there? Uninterrupted face time to impress the exec who is doing the hiring? Two hours worth?! Does it get any better than this?
Okay. Now wake up. Same dream job. You're back in the elevator with the boss, but you don't even have an appointment. And there's no blackout. But it's just you and him, and he gives you a smile and a good morning. That's it - your opening! This may be as close as you ever get to having the opportunity to sell yourself and get hired. And you've got about one minute to do it.
An impossible situation? Yes, if you've never heard of the Elevator Pitch. But if you know how to sell yourself - the essence of who you are and what you do - in a minute or less, you've got a better chance at getting hired than someone who can go on for hours without answering the one and only question employers care about: Why? Why should I hire you? Just give me one good reason! Because one good reason is all you need, according to elevator pitch theory. Selling yourself - or any other product or idea, for that matter - is a simple matter of knowing what the boss/customer is looking for, having the product/skill/resource the other party needs, and telling him/her what s/he needs to know - in about two minutes or less (for an instructional and entertaining video on how elevator pitches work, check out http://tinyurl.com/gzc7q).
In the end, all elevator pitches - like all resumes, interviews, and marketing brochures - have to answer the one basic question your interlocutor has: What's in it for me? Answer it right, and money, power, and possibly a company car will be your rewards; blow it, and it's back to the drawing board.
There are lots of Web sites that will give you step by step instructions on how to put together an EP (like http://www.businessknowhow.com/money/elevator.htm, http://www.collegegrad.com/jobsearch/8-6.shtml, or http://www.webquestdirect.com.au/aes/process-workshop-l.htm). But there's only one real way to know whether or not you've got the right stuff - watching others do their pitch and waiting to see if they succeed, or fall down on their faces!
Unless you're Superman, or a close relative thereof, you probably won't be able to get to the right elevators in time to observe a substantial number of pitches. But that's okay - instead, you're invited for a ride on the Internet's virtual elevator, Your Elevator Pitch (http://www.yourelevatorpitch.com). Here you get a chance to see real life pitches, and decide what works and what doesn't - and rate the ones that impress.
The site contains several hundred pitches, with links to the actual sites of the product/service being hawked. I didn't see any professionals looking to get a job, but there were plenty of freelancers, and one guy who rode his bike around America and was seeking money to turn his experience into a film (sample successful pitch: "I rode my bicycle around the perimeter of the USA (10,000 miles). I did it for kids with learning disabilities. I also documented the whole trip with a video camera. I want to make it into a documentary.").
YOU'D THINK that it would be easy to put together a two-line statement telling others what you're all about when you know what the stakes are. And you'd especially think that any company or individual who bothered to put together a pitch and post it at Your Elevator Pitch would know what an EP was, and how to do one, more or less. Sadly for some of the companies listed, though, this was just not the case. Oh, you could tell that they thought they were doing a good job - but too often the pitches sounded like marketing gobbledygook ("Preople.com is the ultimate ego booster or perhaps the ultimate ego buster. Preople shows you what you are really worth in the digital age").
Anyone can rate pitches at the site (on a scale of 1 to 5), and anyone can sign up to present a pitch. It's fun, but it's also educational - there are lots of ways to make money out there, and with a good elevator pitch, you increase your chances of success substantially. But not always, though; I thought the guys at the Pickle of the Month Club (http://www.pickleofthemonth.com/) had a pretty good pitch, but sadly things didn't work out for them - postage for the pickles was just too burdensome for subscribers. Which teaches us yet another lesson: you can't make it without a pitch, but for sure your idea has to make sense!