The Elevator Pitch

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By Kirk McCarley,

Kirk Mccarley

Legend has it that it was elevator pioneer Elisha Otis who gave the first true “elevator pitch.”

Although in 1853 there were many buildings already equipped with elevators, they were generally considered to be dangerous; only as stable as their weakest rope.  Otis had a vision for a better way and a much safer one at that.  Rather than attempting to sell his invention with complicated language and phraseology, however, he decided to demonstrate some ingenuity.  In front of many, at a convention center, he proceeded to set up a display of an open elevator shaft, hoisted himself up three stories, and then cut his supporting rope with an axe.  The crowd gasped, but then breathed a sigh of relief as his stopping mechanism brought his elevator to a safe halt before it hit the ground.

In just under 30 seconds Elisha Otis had shown the world the value of what he was selling.

We are all in the business of selling whether we choose to be or not.  Store fronts and displays are configured in such a manner as to attract not only attention but buying on the part of the visual customer.  Today’s store fronts are often likely presented through web sites with success measured through search engine optimization metrics.

Beyond those who sell for a living, don’t we all try to promote ourselves in some way?  We dress and present in a manner that brings attraction, causes distraction, or even fades into the oblivion of inaction.  Some of us are vocal and loud, hoping to be heard.  Others are purposely low key and quiet, oftentimes also hoping to influence through their reserve.

An elevator pitch is basically a distillation of not only a company’s value propositions, but that of the work team, and eventually us ourselves.  Most importantly it’s meant to explain what is distinct.

There are countless examples.  Andy Warhol was eccentric even in a medium that encouraged the avant garde.  Lady Gaga fashioned a dress of raw meat.  Harpo Marx pantomimed his entire act without words, even though he was quite capable of speaking.

So, what would be your elevator pitch?

I find many often dumbfounded.  After a few stutters and stammers eventually there comes a response, first utterances often reflective of what that person values, especially at that moment.

I ask clients to consider their answer from a different scenario.  Two people are attending a cocktail party, one who knows you well, the other perhaps hearing your name or about you for the first time.  Consider the person who doesn’t know you asking the other, “What can you tell me about…?”

What would you predict they would say?  What would you want them to say?  Now you have the foundation of your elevator pitch.  It is your unique identifier and differentiator.

My wife, Cindy, is a certified Kitchen and Bath Designer.  She has an incredible “eye” for not only seeing the current state of a kitchen or bath, but the possibility of what it can become.  There are a variety of design illustration tools that are available to those in her trade, but she has truly applied a God-given talent that personalizes her work.  Hand sketched and drawn, her renderings not only provide her clients with a keepsake, but connote the heart, spirit, and love that has gone into that product.  Her unique identifier.

Within each of us there exist similar special gifts.  Some are especially blessed intellectually.  Others discern well.  There are those who are selfless and give of their time and listening for people who need to be heard and understood.  Some have the courage and verbal abilities to speak out; others have the self-control to stand down.

How about you?  What’s your pitch?

A graduate of the University of North Texas, Kirk McCarley is a Certified Professional Coach as well as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and SHRM-CP Certified. He also is a Production Assistant for both college football and basketball for ESPN and leads group cycling classes as a Certified Spinning instructor. Contact,, or call  314-677-8779.

Seed Sower

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