I said 'Elevator Pitch', what's with the stairs?

My Marketing Adventure: The elevator pitch for photographers

For a long time now, I have known that I needed to write an effective elevator speech – of course knowing, and actually doing are not the same thing. It took working with the team at Agency Access to light a fire under me. I worked on ideas with Jennifer Kilberg, my Campaign Manager Pro consultant, and that was the key to getting it done.

It would be nearly impossible for me to do this alone, since writing about myself is as easy as making a dreaded cold call to a potential client. I always feared sounding pompous or pretentious when extolling my virtues and telling people why they should hire me. I’d like to think that I’m a humble person who takes good photographs, but the truth is that this is not enough. Confidence is sexy, and it sells, so we had to come up with pitch I would be confident and comfortable delivering, without feeling like an ostentatious blowhard.

What the Heck is an Elevator Speech?

Let’s take a look at what our friends at Wikipedia have to say:

“An elevator pitch – or elevator speech or statement – is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition. The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.”

The Anatomy of an Elevator Speech

I did a lot of research online about elevator speeches. I found many differing opinions about what key points to include, as well as the length of the speech.

After reading countless articles on the subject, I came up with this breakdown of what an elevator pitch for photographers should comprise of.

The to-do list:

  • Length: 20 to 40 seconds maximum
  • Tone: Conversational
  • Copy:
    • Engage your target by asking a question or questions (the question can be
    • Be straightforward about what you do professionally
    • Cite examples of what you do but keep the list short
    • Make it clear how YOU can be of service to your target

A few things you should not do:

  • Don’t use technical terms or statistics
  • Don’t be all business. Show some passion; you’re an artist!
  • Never repeat yourself
  • Don’t be vague about anything. This is no time to be coy
  • Don’t forget the speech! Practice it often, so it comes across effortlessly

You Can Never be Too Prepared

Jennifer and I decided to make two versions of the pitch; one shorter and one longer to cover different situations. If you are in a situation where you need to get your points across quickly, a very short version – 15 to 20 seconds long – is good to have. If there is time for more detail, go for your longer version – a 30 to 45 second speech. Either way, your goal should be to engage the target, try to further the conversation, and to exchange business cards.

This brings up a good point: always, and I mean ALWAYS have business cards or promotional cards available to pass on to people you randomly meet. You never know who you will run into during the course of your day. What if you meet an editor from National Geographic, a creative director from a major ad agency, or an art buyer from a Fortune 500 company? If you don’t have a business card, you’ll look unprofessional and perhaps miss out on an opportunity.

My Marketing Adventure: The Elevator Speech

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
~Ernest Hemingway

Okay, enough stalling, time to get down to brass tacks. Let’s write this thing! Gulp …

Attempt One

Here’s my first attempt, and bear in mind that first attempts usually suck. Just keep thinking that it’s all part of the process and a necessary evil in order to get the ball rolling.

Jennifer got me started with these five opening lines:

  1. I am a Canadian based travel and lifestyle photographer who captures strong, graphic imagery with a versatile style.
  2. I am a travel and lifestyle photographer who focuses on capturing the memorable moment.
  3. I am a travel and lifestyle photographer who focuses on capturing the architectural and environmental essence of a location.
  4. I am a Canadian based travel and lifestyle photographer who shoots hospitality, editorial, and advertising work.
  5. I am a travel and lifestyle photographer with a focus on hospitality, advertising, and editorial. My work is strong, graphic imagery with a vibrant twist.

I liked the third choice the moment I read it. Good job, Jennifer! As for the others, I didn’t want to be defined as Canadian since I shoot all over the world, and I’m looking for international clients. And somehow, the word hospitality just didn’t seem cohesive with the feel of the overall pitch. So number three it is, and I used that opening line to get started on crafting the rest:

Do you know how many photographs you will see on an average day? How many of those are truly memorable? How many of them inspire you to want to see the world?

I’m a Travel and Lifestyle photographer who focuses on capturing the architectural and environmental essence of a location. I offer imagery with a vibrant twist to my advertising, editorial, and fine art clients.

My goal is to help people fall in love with the locations I visit by sharing my vision and passion through my photography. What I do is a combination of innovation in communication mixed with dedication and inspiration, resulting in exhilaration!

You can see my work by visiting my website and read about my journey on my popular travel photography blog.

That isn’t writing at all; it’s typing.
~Truman Capote

Now that I am re-reading it, it is not truly awful, yet it does kind of suck. That whole rhyming scheme thing that I had going on was not working at all while I was writing it and sounded horrible when I said it aloud.

This brings up another piece of advice I have for you: say your speech out loud, record it, and then listen to it! There is a big difference between reading something and hearing it. You will be saying this to people and not handing them a note, so you better make sure that it sounds good. I’m a photographer, not a rapper; people are hiring me for my images, not my rhyming skills.

I began the speech with too many questions. I felt that I needed to cut some or all of them out. I had decided to begin with questions because one article I read on elevator speeches suggested asking a question to the target. A question immediately engages them, and I thought it was a good idea … now I wasn’t so sure.

Take 2

I am a Travel and Lifestyle photographer who focuses on capturing the natural beauty of a location. My images highlight the subtleties of historic venues, tourist attractions, and the overall essence of the places I photograph. Some of my most recent projects include photographing Mayan ruins in Chiapas, Mexico, The National Opera House in Budapest, Petra in Jordan, and the world-famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna, as well as a recent cover of National Geographic Magazine.

My goal is to help people fall in love with the locations I visit by sharing my vision and passion through my photography. I offer imagery with a vibrant twist to my advertising, editorial, and fine art clients.

You can see my work by visiting my website and read about my journey on my popular travel photography blog.

Better. Just one more edit should suffice.

After going back and forth with Jennifer on this second attempt, I decided that asking just one question was the way to go. So the first question I asked is back in the pitch now, yet I have still managed to include the content of all three questions. A few more minor tweaks, and there we go, the final version.

It’s easy to overthink the whole elevator speech and try too hard to be creative and cute. In the end, the goal remains to be clear, concise, and engaging.

Take 3 – The Final Cut

How many truly memorable photographs do you see in a day that inspire you to see the world?

I am a Travel and Lifestyle photographer who focuses on capturing the natural beauty of a location. My images highlight the subtleties of historic venues, travel attractions, and the overall essence of a scene. Some recent projects include photographing The National Opera House in Budapest, Petra in Jordan, the world-famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna, as well as a recent cover of National Geographic Magazine.

My goal is to help you fall in love with the locations I visit by sharing my vision and passion through unique photography. I offer imagery with a vibrant twist to my advertising, editorial, and fine art clients.

38 seconds long.

This last part can be said as I hand over my business card:

You can see my work by visiting my website and read about my journey on my popular travel photography blog.

Keep it short.

My Marketing Adventure: The Elevator Speech

Now for the very short version, I’ll just use this paragraph:

I am a Travel and Lifestyle photographer who focuses on capturing the natural beauty of a location. My images highlight the subtleties of historic venues, travel attractions, and the overall essence of a scene. Some recent projects include photographing The National Opera House in Budapest, Petra in Jordan, the world-famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna, as well as a recent cover of National Geographic Magazine.

It’s exactly as Jennifer said: “Straight and to the point, with a bit of personality and a client mention.”

I now feel like I’m ready for the question … So, what do YOU do? Are you ready?

I’d love to hear your elevator speech, even if you’re not a photographer. Please leave it as a comment, and hey, feel free to leave a link to your website, blog, or your company’s site.

Ken Kaminesky

Ken Kaminesky is a Montreal based lifestyle and travel photographer. He shares his latest photos and writes about his travel adventures on his popular blog. His photography has been featured in prestigious newspapers and magazines such as the Daily Telegraph, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Scientific American, and recently a cover of National Geographic Magazine. With upcoming trips to Jordan, Mexico and Austria, Ken's plan to take over the world is all coming together.

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