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There has been an ongoing conversation among the arts community that there needs to be less effort invested in selling people on an arts experience and more listening to people to find out what they are looking for.
Seth Godin made a post earlier this month that encompassed that when he suggested substituting the elevator pitch with the elevator question.
The alternative is the elevator question, not the elevator pitch. To begin a conversation–not about you, but about the person you’re hoping to connect with. If you know who they are and what they want, it’s a lot more likely you can figure out if they’re a good fit for who you are and what you want. And you can take the opportunity to help them find what they need, especially if it’s not from you.
Instead of looking at everyone as someone who could fund you or buy from you or hire you, it might help to imagine that almost no one can do those things, but there are plenty of people you might be able to help in some other way, even if it’s only to respect them enough to not make a pitch.
The truth is, unless you are in the presence of a very narrow demographic, chances are that few people you meet can fund or buy from you. Since we know that the narrow demographic most inclined to buy from us is not sufficient to support our work long term, you do need to talk to a lot of people whose general inclination toward the arts and your organization is less known. Therefore the elevator question is going to be better alternative.
Of course, the elevator part is a misnomer for this concept because there is likely no way the conversation will effectively be completed on an elevator trip between floors. It may be months or years.
Just because you aren’t practicing to deliver a frantically paced pitch between floors doesn’t mean you should neglect to provide a focused introduction of yourself and the work you and your organization does. There is so much more you can talk about if you aren’t trying to milk a sale out of precious seconds, but people will appreciate an organized, interesting self-introduction as much as they appreciate not feeling hustled to buy into something.