Going Up

Illustration of two people shaking hands in an elevator

You step into the elevator for the final leg of your morning commute. But before the doors can slide shut, who happens to hop aboard but your company’s CEO.

Unexpected? Yes. But this encounter is nevertheless opportune. Now is the perfect chance to pitch that big idea you’ve had brewing for months—if you only knew how.

This is a common quandary: While the term “elevator pitch” has become culturally ubiquitous, the skill of actually delivering a succinct, persuasive pitch can still escape even the most experienced orators.

“Face-to-face interaction is the richest form of communication,” explains IU Kokomo business communications instructor Ed Faunce. “It’s also the most uncontrollable. You’re out in the Wild West if you’re on an elevator trying to convey an idea to someone who may or may not know you or think positively of your idea.”

With that being the case, Faunce recently gave his students a crash course in the art of the elevator pitch by challenging them to deliver a mock pitch in—where else—the elevator.

If you want something, you need to express that as quickly as you can . . .

Faunce played the part of the students’ serendipitous CEO co-passenger, to whom they pitched their business idea.

“It makes you think on your feet,” adds Faunce. “It’s a real-world environment. We did it at 8:30 in the morning, and the elevator is used by everybody. So they’re giving their pitch, the elevator stops, and someone gets in to go to work. That’s what happens.”

In less time than it takes to travel three floors, a pitch was delivered and a lesson in effective communication learned.

“It was nerve racking at first, but I feel more prepared to share my ideas when I have a chance, and to get noticed for them,” says business major Jessica Roberts.

Capitalizing on professional opportunities is crucial for every up-and-comer. Leave it to an IU instructor to find such a creative way to help students work their way up.

3 steps to your perfect pitch

  1. Introduce yourself and say what you want.
    Faunce explains, “If you want something, you need to express that as quickly as you can without sounding like you’re desperate.” Being upfront with your needs communicates that you’re confident in yourself and your idea, and value your listener’s time.
  2. Open a line of communication.
    “Make sure you create an opening to go back and talk to this person,” says Faunce. Doing this can be as simple as handing out a business card or connecting on an appropriate social media platform.
  3. Get out.
    “Unless you’re invited to elaborate, once your pitch is complete, get out of the elevator,” says Faunce. This lets you stay in control of the situation and avoid any conversational lulls that can deflate or distract from your pitch.

This article was originally published in the fall 2019 issue of Imagine magazine.

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Written By
A. Price
A resident of the Hoosier state since grade school, Alex forged a friendship with “tried and true” IU upon becoming a writer at the IU Foundation.