Should you use a title in an elevator pitch?

by Michele on July 30, 2011

Should solopreneurs use a title in their elevator pitch?

Does any one single thing cause more angst than the elevator pitch?  You know what it is – that 1-sentence description that you use for short introductions that is supposed to sum up all the amazing things you do with all the different people you work with and all the additional things you could do.  I’ve seen it go bad in lots of ways – too little information, too much information, too much jargon, too many hollow phrases, or just being vague.  I get that it’s hard – mine is constantly being tweaked and tested and I feel that I need at least a few different versions for different settings.  One big point of controversy is whether to use a title or not, e.g. should you say “I’m a fitness trainer who……” or something like “I help women over 50 to…….”

The downside of using a title, especially one that most people know, is that once they hear it sometimes their brain closes off to the rest of the statement.  They hear “I’m a fitness trainer” and their mind goes to their own unique picture of fitness trainers and they never hear the rest which is actually what makes you unique.  They won’t get an accurate or full picture of how you practice your craft and they may not have any idea of the kind of problems you solve.  It also limits who they think might benefit from working with you.  They might have no one in their life who has been lamenting their lack of a fitness trainer, but might have lots of people with problems that could be a fitness trainer’s specialty such as low back pain, post baby weight, sleep trouble, menopause, post surgery issues, etc.  If you’re in a setting where further conversation is possible, you might find that you first need to uncover their preconceived notions about your work and dispel them just so you can explain what you really do.

The upside of using a title is that it gives people a word to grasp on to that you can begin to describe.  If I say something like “I help women over 50 get their energy, vitality and self-esteem back,” you have no idea if I’m a doctor, vitamin salesperson, acupuncturist, yoga teacher, therapist, body worker, nutritionist, etc.  But if I say “I’m a fitness trainer who helps women over 50….” it’s instantly a much clearer picture.  If you’re a solopreneur, you can make up a title that is more clear than what other people in you line of work may use but be careful not to be too grandiose about it.

The bottom line is that I don’t believe there is just one magic formula for an elevator pitch.  You have to test several versions in a variety of settings, and you will probably need at least a few for different purposes.  Pay attention to what feels most powerful to you and what you feel most proud saying.  Another good clue is if you get any questions in response.  If someone asks for more information, your elevator pitch has done it’s job.

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