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May 19th, 2013 by Rebecca Raphaelson

“What is that project thing you’re working on?” or, How To Make Elevator Pitches That Won’t Get You Hated Forever.

“What is that project thing you’re working on?” It’s a question that I get asked constantly, and it’s the first big thing you have to tackle before you can talk about any project, THE DREADED ELEVATOR PITCH.

An elevator pitch is essentially your idea or project in the shortest way you can possibly say it, and still have people have half a clue what you are talking about. The idea is that if you ever got into an elevator with someone important that could really help your project, you would be able to tell them in the proper amount of time before the doors open and you lose them forever. It is supposed to be short because most buildings are. Also, because even if your building is 27 stories tall, telling someone a long story about your project is only going to make them; A. Fall asleep standing, fall, and crack their face off  or, B.  Bored. Either way you run a high risk of C. Them hating you, forever. Just kidding. (Half.)

That being said, I needed a good, short elevator pitch. This can be an issue because-

  1. How do you fit so much genius into such a small amount of words?
  2. I’m long winded.
  3. There doesn’t really need to be a three because the first two are such a lethal combination.

Ok, so where do we go from there? Do we panic? NO, WE WILL NOT PANIC. Never panic, all we really need are just a few questions answered and we basically have a formula for a perfect elevator pitch.

  1. What does the project do?
  2. How does it do that?
  3. Why is it important?

You’ll have to do a couple drafts.

  1. What does the project do?
    It brings veterans to campus and trains them through the University Police program so they can make a smooth transition from military to civilian life and helps reduce crime on campus.
  2. How does it do that?
    By sending them to a police academy where they can learn in by the the physical environment they are used to, and transition easily to the classroom environment they will have to be in for college. It is all paid for by the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program.
  3. Why is it important?
    The statistics for unemployed veterans are abysmal.  Many of them are being scammed by for profit colleges and universities and those who are even lucky enough to have an opportunity for a job are often having to choose work over getting an education.

Too long. Cross some things out. Take they keywords from what you have written and try to make them stand out and fit in only one sentence. Then, take the keywords from those sentences and make them even fewer sentences. Eventually I ended up with this-

“The program aids in troop transitions by getting veterans jobs with the University Police as they attend school with their GI Bill money. It means no longer having to choose between getting an education and feeding their families.”

I went through a lot of pitches before I finally settled on this one. Almost accidentally, I ended up trying it out on different people who knew nothing about the project and used the questions they asked me to help me figure out what to emphasize. It’s important to remember that different people will be more interested in and persuaded by different things. For instance, students will be more concerned with whether the new additions to the University Police are going to be trying to bust them for parties and spy on them. They’ll want to know these vets will be just like them. For people who are skeptical about costs, you’ll want an emphasis on the program being paid for by the GI Bill. Veterans will want to know how this program will help them. What I generally do is use the first sentence for every pitch, and tweak the second towards an emphasis on whatever aspect of the project the person I’m speaking to will be most interested in.

Okay? Not so bad. They’ll ask questions and you’ll be able to give them good short answers. Leave them wanting more.
You’ve got this!

Go start a project!

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