When someone asks, “what do you do?”, how do you show ‘what you do’? Let’s face it — it’s hard to evoke a mental picture of a process, a service, or even a component of product that is the output of one’s job. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could show someone what you do or create?
That is the premise of Michael Shrage’s article “The New Elevator Pitch” in the recent issue of Harvard Business Review. He maintains that technology — specifically, devices like the iPhone — have made it easier for entrepreneurs to explain (show) their products.
He says that listening to good entrepreneurs make their pitch is enjoyable. How well, or poorly, they align their passion and persuasiveness to the product details reveals a lot. Are they pushing an idea or telling a story? Is it all about their own charisma or is the innovative idea the real hero? Are we having a conversation or am I being sold? How will they get me to “get it”?
All these entrepreneurial issues resurfaced during a Fortune technology conference in Aspen. As Osman Rashid, who co-founded Chegg.com, described his new digital textbook startup Kno during a coffee break, Mr. Schrage peppered him with questions. He had his elevator pitch answers down pat, but the author wanted to learn more.
Unprompted, Osman whipped out his smartphone and handed it over. Mr. Schrage then watched a decent video clip illustrating his product’s features and functionality. He could tap to hear testimonials. He could tap to play with a simulation of the software. In a matter of moments, the device had transformed Osman from an entrepreneur in conversation to a guide and narrator of an interactive experience.
The object — and interaction with it — became an intimate part of the conversation. His smartphone did not simply become a sales tool or product pitch — although those elements were baked into the material — and the device instead was used as a medium to both reinforce conversation points and invite new questions and comments from the audience. Think how different that is than the “laptop-on-the-table” PowerPoints most of us experience on routine basis. This is active, standing, talking, holding, viewing, and manipulating this device. The kinesthetics, eye contact, questions, and interruptions revolve as much around the device as the people.
Elevator pitches are important. The ability to boil down the essence of your innovation into a sound-bite remains essential. Only now, mobile devices have taken it to the next level. It’s no longer about what you say and how you say it; it’s increasingly about what you hand over.
What do you hand over that transforms the conversation? What do you hand over that visually and interactively adds value to your spoken words? What do you hand over that complements and supplements your pitch? What do you hand over that invites and inspires the curiosity you want? What do you hand over that makes you more persuasive? These are the questions that will drive future innovation. “Hand-it-over” conversations seem destined to create new genres of salesmanship and interaction. Mr. Schrage believes it will become an innovation best practice.
So, how can you bring your ‘product’ to life and show a demonstration? No matter what your profession, this innovation can take your product experience to the next level, and the very least, engage your audience in ways beyond their normal expectations.