Storytelling vs. "Elevator Pitch"

By Nathan Young - Storytelling Consultant

In much of  my work teaching storytelling I come across a lot of people that have a special request for help with an “elevator pitch.” They are looking for a succinct way to present themselves that will communicate all their splendor in 3 minutes or less.

I understand the appeal. The presumption is that by mastering the “elevator pitch” you’ll know exactly what to do and say for that instance when a potential big money benefactor happens to be trapped in a small moving room with you. I also understand from the point of view that the startup world (for tech, biotech, media and a host of other industries) regularly hosts “pitch events” that invite aspiring startup entrepreneurs to pitch their business idea to a panel of experts for a prize.

These are important scenarios to be ready for when it comes to growing your business or enterprise, but they all bely a set of question inherent in those opportunities too. How do you get into the elevator--proverbial or otherwise--to make your important elevator pitch? What set of circumstances gets you in front of the pitch event panel? How do you talk about your business to even get the first pieces of the puzzle underway; from initial funding, forming partnerships or even communicating what your plan is to friends, family and clients?

There’s an old truism to success that I’m sure everybody reading this is familiar with, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” The more smart, interesting and well connected people you know, the more likely it is that something good will come out of those relationships that will help you with your personal and professional life. There might be a friend that can hook you up to a potential investor they know and even be willing to vouch for your competency to this potential investor. Or there might be other people out there working on complimentary projects that could present a beneficial partnership. The range of possibilities are endless, but the common denominator of them all is there is going to be a person. The person could be an investor, partner, employee, client or customer, but one way or another a person is going to be involved.

If the reality is that people will be involved, you’ll want to learn how to communicate with people authentically and effectively, not just for “elevator pitches” but for all aspects of human interaction. You’ll want people to know exactly who you are and what’s important to you. You’ll want them to understand that you are a competent and effective person, and most of all you’ll want them to trust and think positively of you.

One of the most important communication tools you can have for all that is storytelling. Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of human communication. In fact, as humans we’re hardwired for storytelling. It’s part of our brain chemistry and even simple stories can have a strong emotional effect on us. We empathize with the storyteller, are more prone to see the world from their point of view and even place ourselves in their shoes. By learning to effectively communicate with storytelling you’ll be able to develop more authentic relationships with others in all facets of your life.

There’s a huge range of applications for storytelling, from getting in the practice of simply sharing your day with friends to “keeping a story in your pocket” to use for occasions that merit it (sort of like an elevator pitch).

The benefit of focusing on storytelling as a tool to develop relationships is that your communication isn’t limited to one particular type of situation. Those authentic relationships can get you into more proverbial elevators, give you second chances if your first pitch doesn’t go so well, and even get you more extended sit downs with the people you want to talk to. Incidentally, storytelling can also help you develop a better pitch too!

Want some help with planning your own stories? I've got the perfect tool for you. Sign up below and I’ll send you my Story Planner Worksheet. It will walk you through the basic steps of crafting the stories you can have handy for when you need them.