WHY YOU NEED AN ELEVATOR PITCH
You step into an elevator and realize you’re standing next to the CEO. He nods at you and ask how things are going with data-driven initiatives. You have a few seconds to champion analytics, leave a memorable impression of what you are trying to achieve, and stack the odds in your favor.
Of course, this may never happen in an elevator, and it might not be the CEO, but the idea is to carry with you the clarity of what you do and the ability to readily relay your pitch whether you're conducting a presentation or meeting someone for coffee. Being pitch ready at all times is essential in helping others understand the importance of your work and why analytics matters.
Because in the fast-paced world of corporate analytics, you often have less than a minute to capture the attention of your key stakeholders. The challenge for you is amplified because you're trying to communicate complex data science initiatives. That's why mastering the Art of The Elevator Pitch is essential for gaining buy-in and breaking down organizational resistance.
As Brian Hogan, the VP of shared technology solutions at Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits reminds us in our recent podcast, an elevator pitch is essential in change management.
THE POWER OF THE STORY-DRIVEN PITCH
A good pitch invokes interest - it poses an intriguing idea.
A great pitch builds excitement - it reveals possibility and potential.
A perfect pitch tells the right story - and makes people want to be a part of it.
"The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller." - Steve Jobs
Think of your elevator pitch as the core of your personal data story engine, much like a movie trailer, a micro-story built to invoke interest, build excitement, and win over your audience.
Follow the 3 steps below to build your own
Elevator Pitch to gain buy-in for analytics. 👇
Your Hook is your opening scene.
Carmine Gallo, a Harvard University instructor and author of Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great, talks about how to use a logline in his article "The Art of the Elevator Pitch." A logline is a short engaging story summary that screenwriters use to sell their ideas to producers. Without the perfect logline, Gallo says, there's no sale. The same goes for elevator pitches.
If you can sum up a movie's storyline in one concise and engaging line, it can be done for any scenario. As Gallo mentions, a good logline works because it "identifies the key elements of the story: the hero, his weakness, his conflict, and the hurdles he must overcome — all in one sentence."
The most engaging stories start with addressing conflict, or in your case, a pain point in the business.
Actionable Tip: Start with a strong storyline opener that immediately reveals the problem. Introduce something that's hard to ignore, with a trend that implies risk and opportunity.
Example: “Our latest product feature set has an extremely low engagement rate due to complexity of use, and we've already seen an increase in churn as a result.”
Deep Dive: Success in stakeholder relationships isn't a numbers game, it's a human game. Borrowing insights from the high-stakes world of deal-making, it's clear that understanding and leveraging emotional dynamics are key. One of the best methods to capture someone's attention right at the start of a pitch can be found in Oren Klaff's famous book 'Pitch Anything'. Klaff argues that you should always place your pitch in the context of a trend that everyone in the room can agree is happening and that is likely to have a major impact. This way, you immediately create a sense of urgency with something that presents risk and opportunity, and will enable your stakeholders to prioritize your proposition.
STEP 1: THE HOOK
Your Frame is the connective tissue of shared values and mission behind your story.
Just like lighting and frame around a painting, or background music and color profile in a movie, the Frame is the undertone that will change how your stakeholder processes the information you present.
The Frame serves a dual purpose: it places you on a common ground of mutually agreed morals, and it channels your attention as you both set your eyes on the same target.
You establish connection through commonality by addressing core values and key objectives of your organization. As Bernadette Jiwa writes in Story Driven, "We subconsciously make values-based decisions all the time, but when we clearly articulate our values, we create a kind of moral shorthand that helps us to consciously and consistently act with integrity [and purpose]."
Actionable Tip: State why the problem matters by backing it up with company values, and refer to a shared goal or joint ambition to establish agreed common ground as your frame.
Example: “We have a reputation of exceptional user experience when it comes to our products, and we don't want to miss this year's revenue and retention KPIs,”
Deep Dive: Values and mission are the hidden spinal cord around which all divisions and stakeholders of your organization align. Ensure you are aware of what those are for your company so you can leverage them effectively in your storytelling, which will help you substantiate why the problem matters to the business as a whole. Channeling this further into current and relevant company objectives will further infuse your moral context with immediate purpose and intent.
STEP 2: THE FRAME
STEP 3: THE SOLUTION
Your Solution is is the compelling (and selling) point.
It is quite literally the reSolution in your narrative arch, and as such, it's crucial to get it right. Now that you've set the scene with conflict in your Hook, created moral and mission context with your Frame, it's time for someone to save the day. As with marketing, it's always better to sell the benefits instead of features. When you're talking about the solution you're creating, talk about what it does, rather than overwhelm your listener with data jargon about the inner workings of what you're creating.
Actionable Tip: Introduce your work in simple terms. Don't use technical language, and focus on outcomes, hiding the nuts and bolts of the data-driven engine behind your solution.
Example: “We're creating a set of AI avatars that closely mimic user behaviour and have the ability to measure ease of use before a product feature goes live.”
Deep Dive: In "The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures," author Dan Roam suggests that complexity is your worst enemy when conveying ideas. Too often, analytics professionals dive into the technical details of their solution, forgetting that the audience does share their technical expertise nor their enthusiasm for impressive data architecture. Your stakeholders are really only interested how the solution affects them, rather than the intricate details of its operation. Just as a skilled chef knows that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, a well-crafted Solution in an elevator pitch focuses on taste over recipe, experience over ingredients.
STEP 4: THE IMPACT
Your Impact is 'grand finale'.
Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed book "Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die," often discuss the importance of the "aha" moment in storytelling. This moment transforms your pitch from mere information into a compelling narrative that sticks. For your elevator pitch, "The Impact" serves as that culminating "aha" moment where you delineate the real-world consequences of your Solution. This is the pivotal moment where you distill the effects of your plan down to a few powerful statements that not only articulate the problem solved but the world remade. In a pitch, your impact must be as clear and compelling as the problem you initially outlined.
Actionable Tip: Paint a picture of how the solution benefits the business, highlighting the desired effect on your stakeholders' key pain points, aspirations, and concerns.
Example: “This is projected to save over $3.7 million just this year in marketing and beta testing costs, freeing up additional budget for hiring and staff retention.”
Deep Dive: In "The Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction Writing," Francis Flaherty says that every good story leaves an imprint on its audience. In the context of an elevator pitch, this imprint is the lasting impression that will ultimately propel decision-makers to take action. So when outlining your Impact, be sure it speaks not just to the head, but also to the heart. It should align with stakeholders' underlying motivations and answer the ultimate question: "What's in it for me?"
STEP 5: THE ACTION
Your Action is your (optional) invitation for a sequel.
After weaving a compelling narrative complete with the Hook, the Frame, the Solution, and the Impact, you now have the opportunity to drive Action. This is where you can make your intention clear, and propose the next steps. Robert Cialdini, in his classic book "Influence" speaks about the principle of "Commitment and Consistency." Once someone has made a small commitment, they are more likely to continue in the direction of that commitment. Your Action step can be that initial push, helping the decision-maker to take the first step, making it more likely they will follow through with potentially a larger proposition at a later, more mature stage of the journey.
Actionable Tip: If you choose to drive action, clearly and confidently propose the next steps. Make it concrete, specific, and easy for the decision-maker to say “yes” to.
Example: “If you also see the potential, I propose we run a low-cost pilot run next quarter. Can we schedule a meeting next week to discuss how that might look like?”
Deep Dive: In "To Sell Is Human", Daniel Pink emphasizes the importance of clarity in guiding others toward action. Once someone shares your vision, you must make the next steps easy and they need to 'make sense'. While earlier parts of your Story Pitch were focusing on emotional buy-in, now it's time to shift gears and be logical and conclusive. Your “Action” step should be an unambiguous, tangible proposition that reduces the decision-making friction for stakeholders.
By having a clear action step, you ensure that your pitch doesn’t fizzle out but rather channels the momentum you’ve built into real-world follow-up and engagement.
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