You always have to keep something on the tip of your tongue.

My college roommate was the type of person that always had a comeback to whatever was said. He was quick on his feet in verbally responding.

He could develop a narrative around any issue. When asked how he could be so quick, this quote above was always his response.

We have all participated in (or have heard about) the elevator pitch and how important it is. The premise is that if you were on an elevator with an “important person,” what would your brief, 30-second pitch be? If you are an entrepreneur or a job seeker, how would you pitch this person?

Being ready to pitch anywhere

I have always thought of this as a flawed strategy. Why are we preparing for an encounter that will almost never happen, especially in an elevator?

In our work lives, many of us commute with other people every day. At events outside of work, we meet new people. We go to the grocery store and we meet people. Every time we step out of our house, we are setting up a chance encounter that could give us the opportunity to make our pitch.

I went to the American Embassy here in Riyadh the other day to get some papers notarized, and I got into a discussion with one of the attorneys there. I gave him my back story as to how I ended up in the Middle East, and he gave me his as to how he is now stationed in Saudi Arabia. As I was listening to his pitch, I thought about how I could get more involved with the embassy as an American citizen.

Developing something on the spot

My pitch, which was developed on the spot, was that I have multi-industry, global, and business experience and would love to serve in some way since I was going to be in Saudi Arabia for a few years. Right away he picked up on it and said “you know that sounds like a great idea.”

Yes, he would have someone contact me about serving on the Overseas Security Advisory Council. The OSAC was created by the Secretary of State to promote an open dialogue between the U.S. government and the American private sector on security issues abroad. The OSAC is directed by a council of 34 representatives from companies and government agencies concerned with overseas security.

Within a week I was contacted and we worked out the particulars to add me to the mailing list and informing me of upcoming meetings and events.

Do you have more than just a job pitch?

We have all been trained to prepare our elevator pitch for a job, but our pitch can really be for anything that we want it for. Mine was developed on the spot because I saw an opportunity to get involved and expand my global surrounding and contacts. Yours could be something totally different.

How many times have we heard of events or other activities that we would love to be a part of? However, somewhere along the line, we never ask — maybe because we are afraid to ask.

I remember my father telling me,“always ask for whatever it is that you want, because they just might say yes.” If you don’t ask, the answer is a a definite “no.”

Seizing the moment

Being human, we sometimes freeze up, decide not to act, and say we will wait for the next time. Problem is, there may not be a next time on the horizon. If we do ask, we sometimes get into a stilted pitch and it comes across as such as opposed to having a “conversation” highlighting what you want to emphasize and ask for.

The key to an elevator pitch that works is to remember that the message can be simple without a lot of fanfare.

Mine was very simple: “I would love to offer my services and get more involved with MY embassy in any way that I can.” That was simple because it just said, in essence, “I want to help.

I was part of a career group years ago, and we all had to prepare for our elevator pitch. It was the one exercise that brought groans to all the participants. As we listened to others, doubt crept in and we figured that ours was just not good enough. Sometimes, the pitches came across as stilted and rehearsed. Everyone was relived when the exercise was done.

How will I know if it works?

You will know and elevator pitch is good enough when you are asked for more information, or the response it that whatever you are saying is a great idea.

The trick is to never think of it as a SPEECH. Think of making a simple point about how you can help, how they can help, or better yet, how you both can help.

It’s not hard — it’s just a simple conversation!!