Crafting a Meaningful Elevator Pitch

Last week Selena Horner (@SnippetPhysTher) shared a Fast Company article on Twitter entitled “The Problem With Your Elevator Pitch—And How To Fix It.” The point of said article is obvious, but that’s not what caught Selena’s eye. It was the example the author uses of a bad elevator pitch: “I help busy professionals live pain-free lives so that they can get back to work.” In addition to this being a vague and fairly clichéd description of a physical therapist, the author also points out that entrepreneurs, in general, have learned that they need an elevator pitch, but haven’t truly learned how to create a meaningful one and then deliver it in an effective (read: human) way.

This article stirred quite the discussion on Twitter. Numerous people tweeted that they don’t believe in elevator pitches, that they just speak from the heart; others said the term “elevator pitch” is off-putting and clichéd in itself and therefore would only inspire people to in turn speak in clichés. Concluding the Twitter conversation, Jerry Durham (@Jerry_DurhamPT) summarized: “Your explanation is your pitch.” So, no matter how you label it (elevator or basic summary) or how you describe your job (well-rehearsed or off the cuff), it’s all your pitch. And in the end, the fact remains the same: a lot of us struggle to succinctly and successfully describe our profession. With that said, let’s discuss how to create a meaningful elevator pitch.

What is an elevator pitch?

According to an article on dumblittleman.com, an elevator pitch “is the 30-60 second business description of what you do and why someone should work with you.” According to the Harvard Business Review, you should think of your elevator pitch like this: “You have one minute to explain yourself, your business, your goals, and your passions. Your audience knows none of these. Are you prepared? Can you present your vision smoothly, enticing them to want to know more?”

Why is an elevator pitch important to PTs?

For many entrepreneurs, the elevator pitch represents an opportunity to convince a potential client, partner, or investor that you are exactly what they need. For physical therapists, the elevator pitch can be slightly different. For PTs, everyone is a potential patient, advocate, supporter, or referrer. Thus, every interaction is an opportunity for an elevator pitch: an opportunity to position yourself—and your profession—as the musculoskeletal expert. When the people you’ve interacted with think pain, they should think PT—not chiropractor, or physician, or surgeon. In short, have a rock solid pitch.

How do I craft my pitch?

  1. Make a list. Start by jotting down who you are and what you do. Don’t limit yourself in any way; just write down everything that comes to mind however off the wall it might be. After all, you’ll want to be unique because unique is memorable.
  2. Turn your list into a narrative. There’s nothing more compelling than a good story, so turn who you are and what you do into a captivating tale that highlights how what you do benefits the people you serve. Maybe you’ve helped a patient regain their mobility, get back to their life, or achieve a meaningful goal. Or maybe you got started in therapy after seeing the benefits first-hand.
  3. Make sure your narrative has a happy ending. What’s your purpose? What are your goals? Make sure your story concludes with those aspirations. Nothing is more inspirational, and creating a warm emotional connection is exactly what you’re trying to do.
  4. Let it marinate. You’ve done beaucoup writing. Call it a day and return to your notes tomorrow with fresh eyes and ears.
  5. Condense and edit. You may have pages upon pages worth of stories, notes, and explanations. Now, it’s time to tighten. Read your writing out loud to aid with flow and tone. Remember, you want to sound natural, conversational. Reading aloud can help ensure that. Also, time your reading. Typically elevator pitches are under a minute.
  6. Rehearse and revise. Talk through your story, over and over again until it feels just right. And make sure to check both visual and audio cues. Whether that means rehearsing in front of a live audience or recording yourself on your phone or computer and playing it back, it’s important to make sure that both your verbal and nonverbal language is on point. Pay attention to your smile, your eye contact, your hand motions, and your inflection. A first impression may be all the opportunity you’ll have, so make it count. And that means making tweaks, cuts, and changes. Then rehearse again.
  7. Practice and measure. Put your elevator pitch to work. Get out there and talk to people. As you speak, gauge people’s reactions: what do their expressions say? How do they respond? Use those verbal and nonverbal cues to further revise and enhance your pitch. Lastly, measure those interactions. Do they blossom into meaningful relationships, potential business, or new referrals? Ultimately, elevator pitches should influence “sales,” so pay attention to the results that may stem from your interactions.

We’ve tackled the basics; now it’s your turn. How do you speak succinctly and passionately about your profession? How can you make sure that when someone experiences joint, bone, or muscle pain they think of you the PT before anyone else? To help you get started, check out the super nifty and uber simple Harvard Business Review’s Elevator Pitch Builder

Be sure to share your thoughts, tips, and success stories in the comments below.

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