Friday, March 12, 2010

Quick! - Get Everyone In the Elevator; Why the First 30 Seconds May Count More Than Anything Else

Lately I've been thinking a lot about elevator pitches and video. A perfect opportunity emerged early this week to capture a few. I was at the Sales 2.0 Conference is San Francisco and Kodak a presenter and sponsor was giving away some of their portable video cameras. I won one. The organizer asked people who won a camera to capture video and upload it to the conference site. I was going to capture some video anyway, but this was a perfect entree to ask people to participate.

Most of the people at the booths there were in Sales or Marketing and were natural hams, so they were pretty easy going when I asked them to join in.

I think everyone here did a pretty good job. I learned a few things from a portable video capture perspective as well as the video elevator pitch perspective.

First the mechanical stuff....

The Kodak Zi8 rocks, but don't get too close. I used an external mic to capture better sound, but the cord just wasn't long enough to do my generous participants complete justice. You'll see some coffee cups in the background that are in perfect focus, while some of my subjects are a bit too close and fuzzy. If I had it to do all over again, I would add a long mic cable and bring a monopod. The camera actually did a credible job of capturing some of the screen detail especially if you watch the videos in HD.

Ok, with that out of the way, let's talk about the essence of an elevator pitch. I knew they were important, but I now appreciate their importance even more. In an era of social media, I believe its rapidly becoming the case that this is all we've got....a mere 30-45 seconds to make our case and how we deliver it may be just as important as what we have to say.

Some thoughts...

Keep it Tight - I asked everyone here to keep their pitch to between 30 and 45 seconds. Most people went about a minute and a half. That may work at the Burj Khalifa but I content that I don't think we have that long. Scratch the Burj comment, it turns out those elevators go 26.1 mph. Ok, I wasn't increadibly insistent on this point and these talented sales and marketing folks probably could have gotten very close if pressed, but I think you get my point. Even more important than speed is structure. How many points are you trying to get across? How well are the points organized? Do they develop the story in a compelling way? Do they facilitate the retelling of the story? Beta is volitility metric used to describe stock. Perhaps we should have a similar metric for the variability of the delivery of our messages.

Make Sure Everyone Can Do It - I went to a couple of the booths and the people standing there said so and so is our elevator pitch person. In some cases I had to come back. I guess the challenge here is what if I was a customer? ...and for some of these products, I probably am. The challenge to make the pitch eminently consummable falls to me an my marketing brethern. Us marketers need to make the story so easy to deliver and consume that anyone can do it.

Having Everyone Reherse Isn't Enough - The story, I content, needs to be tight, tight, tight. And one size never fits all. To do this really, really well, everyone needs a tightly architected story and a few alternative beginnings, middles, and ends that they can weave in. I believe there is a phase when we are first learning about a new idea - probably the first 15 seconds, when our ability to absorb that idea is most at peril. Some scientist has probably already given this a name. Please comment on the blog if you know it, but I am certain we are going to spend a lot more time talking about this window in marketing and advertising circles in the near future. As our brains try to connect elements of a new idea, we are at our most dismissive. I believe the part of the brain that processes this information is permanently set to skeptical. Unless we can explain it in plain english in a compelling way, we tune out. We may tune out because we don't have the foggiest idea of what the speaker is saying or it just doesn't sound interesting or convincing. While these folks all did a good job, think of what happens when you try to scale a message in your company. Not easy and not trivial.

Authenticity Trumps All - We've evolved as a species. No one could possibly hear a cigarette commerical today touting their health benefits and not become enraged. We know when we are being sold to. The hair on the backs of our necks stands up. Furthermore we pretty much hate it. That type of convincing someone to absorb and idea or take an action is very win - lose. This doesn't mean that we hate marketers or hate sales people, but they have to work harder appeal to us. Yes you have to understand our situation and you have to tell your story in a way that connects with us and a challenge we are facing. It's often said that people buy from people. This could easily be refined to be people buy from people they trust. Trust, I believe, comes from empathy, understanding, and the ability to convey an authentic belief that what you have solves the pain you are addressing.

A Picture Says a 1000 Words....and a 1 minute video is 150mb of pictures. To be fair here, most of these folks were somewhat put on the spot with a instant request to contribute to the content of a Sales 2.0 "we are going to share everything" kind of show and I'd give everyone here at least a "good" rating for their effort, but you will clearly see that some people are more comfortable than others. With the voice quality essentially normalized by my average quality lapel mic, and the video quality normalized to mediocre by my developing flash video skillset and the length of the microphone cable, note what you pick up in how people display emotion as they connect the dots of their solution.

I would say this is a fair look at what good to better than good looks like in the world today when it comes to elevator pitches. I would like to thank each of these brave souls for participating, and congratulate them for generally being at the top of their class. Having said that, I think us marketing types have our work cut out for us as we help our organizations content with what may be our most important message delivery vehicle today. When you think about it, it may be the most viral thing we can do.