How To Deliver A Good Elevator Pitch

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Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who teaches you how to harness the power of your story to connect, engage, and get results. In this blog, Kelly focuses on the business of professional speaking. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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How To Deliver A Good Elevator Pitch   - Funny motivational speaker on elevator pitches

Being the Vendor at Networking Events

I joined an association of people who buy what I sell. Instead of the member, I became the vendor in the room. Double yuck. I hate being the vendor in the room. It changes the whole dynamic. I’ve been in associations where I am the member in a room full of vendors.

There’s a reason you can’t get us to go into the trade show room. People hate to be sold to, and being surrounded by vendors is like walking into a room full of those credit card people trying to tackle you down in the airport.

I seriously hate those people.

One day I’m going to walk up and spray them with perfume without their permission. There is nothing more disingenuous than talking with somebody and having a really good conversation (even though you have this weird gut feeling) and then about ten minutes in, they start to pitch.

Ruins everything that came before it. In that instant any true motive you had to become my friend just got bumped out as I realize that this whole time you’ve been trying to sell me something. And this creates in me a visceral reaction of anger.

And I’m not the only one.

Think about it yourself. How do you feel when that person calls you at dinner time acting like your best friend?

But here I am, a vendor in an association of buyers. At the first event, I played the game. I printed a stack of business cards and handed them out to anyone who would look in my direction. I hated every moment of it, did not get one good lead, and never wanted to go back.

So I decided I wasn’t going to play their game anymore.  I refused to sell. I refused to pitch. I decided to have one motive and one motive only – to make friends.  So I went into the room as if I were at a party, and I began to make friends.

We talked about which buffet had the shorter line. We talked about how it should be a three drink minimum instead of two. We talked about how CSI has been on the air too long. We talked about how ungrateful our kids were. We talked about how we would rather be ANYWHERE but this networking event. And every once in a while, our fun conversations got interrupted by someone dropping in to casually announce that he was a photographer.

I had people laughing and cutting up, showing them my picture from high school which I saved on my phone to prove that I did too once look like Androgynous Pat from Saturday Night Live. We were having a ball. And then one of them casually asked, “What do you do for a living?”

Uh oh.

Here is where everything was going to take a nasty turn. Here is where people scatter like I just announced I am an Amway rep. I acted like I didn’t hear the question. So they asked again, “What do you do for a living?”

So I told them. “I’m a stripper.”

They froze. And then busted out laughing. “Well, I didn’t say I was a good one,” I replied, which got an even bigger laugh. And I cleverly changed the conversation to my third cousin Juanita who is in fact a stripper, and proud of it.

But I could tell I had piqued their curiosity, and near the end of the night one of them said, “No, seriously. You’ve got to tell us what you do for a living.” “I’m a comedian and a motivational speaker,” I said. “But it’s kind of boring. I’d rather talk about CSI.”

You could feel their relief. You could see the respect I had earned. You could feel the friendship strengthen. Three months later, the association had booked me to speak, along with several of its members. And not once did I ever make a pitch.

Help! My Elevator Pitch Sucks!

Everybody’s looking for the secret on how to deliver a good elevator pitch, and I finally have it: DITCH THE PITCH ! Yes, I said it. Don’t have one. I will pause for you to make your argument… Still not done? I’ll wait… Now let me make mine.

Our economy has changed. It’s not down, it’s different. And it’s not going back.

We’ve switched from a push economy to a pull economy. What does this mean? It means that the consumer is in the driver’s seat, and that the only way they will buy in this economy, is if the trust and value and the relationship is built BEFORE the sale.

Gone are the days of knocking on doors and delivering an award-winning pitch that sells a whole set of encyclopedias to a family who doesn’t speak English. So what does this mean to those of us trying to sell or influence somebody else?

It means the elevator pitch doesn’t matter. It’s useless. It’s irrelevant.

What matters more is your ability to establish a CONNECTION. What matters more is how likeable you are. What matters more is your ability to create a community of people that you have built a relationship with – people who trust you and value you. THEN you sell. But only then.

What this means is that we can no longer hope to sell by pushing ourselves on somebody.  And that’s what the elevator pitch does. It pushes. You have far more power when you pull. When you pull, they want to know more. When you pull, they want to take you home with them.

So ditch the pitch.

Your time is far better spent writing a short, interesting, perhaps even funny STORY of why you do what you do. Rather than making one hundred cold calls, why not create a Facebook page, and start building a community of people who love your posts. (Hint: Don’t sell on the post – just make friends.) Instead of telling them what you do, SHOW them.

Your time is better spent being a resource, sharing the knowledge you have on what you sell. And then when you have their trust and they LIKE you (remember, people buy from people they like)  – THEN you can simply share your resources – all the ways you have to make their life better. Then you can ask for the sale. Get their attention and they’ll want more.

I promise.

People are still working on elevator pitches in a world where elevator pitches are irrelevant.

How To Deliver A Good Elevator Pitch - Funny motivational speaker Kelly Swanson on ditching the elevator pitch.


  • You are so right! That’s exactly how I learned to network and making that connection makes all the difference. I hated sorting through the stack of business cards after some of those events, not even remembering the face of the person that had given it to me. Great post Kelly!