Is the Age-Old ‘Elevator Pitch’ On Its Way Out?

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For those unfamiliar, an elevator pitch is a short, snappy, attention-grabbing presentation of an idea that anyone looking to climb the ranks has ready for any chance meeting with a head honcho, well, in an elevator. More sophisticated elevator technology might render this classic move in its traditional form obsolete.The new technology also kind of makes NewsFeed feel like Big Brother is watching us. The Wall Street Journal reports it’s now possible for elevators to route employees and help companies keep track of who is and isn’t in the office. It’s also possible to redirect an employee to a different floor at the request of the boss, and also sort them into elevators by rank.

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Jeff Blain, a sales manager for Schindler, one of the main companies to install the technology, says in at 1999 Broadway in downtown Denver, one law firm even requested that the elevator be able to keep its attorneys away from employees of an Internal Revenue Service office in the same building.

This dispatch system is becoming more common in the U.S. with the two firms Otis Elevator Co. and smaller rival Schindler Elevator Corp., which dominate the market, having installed around 200 buildings across the country. This is how the system works: In the building lobby, employees select their floor on a keypad in the lobby and are sent to board a specific elevator. It means fewer people per car and fewer stops, and can be configured to fit a company’s needs.

At One Bryant Park in New York City, elevators can let Bank of America VIPs ride separately from regular staff, says Michael Landis, Schindler’s vice president of marketing. While the technology is unnecessary, as many of the bank’s senior executives work on the 50th floor and have a direct elevator, Landis says it’s one of the features that won them the contract. But a Bank of America spokesperson told the WSJ they weren’t using the feature. “There is an executive floor but there is no executive elevator. The ride up or down can be shared by company leaders and people making deliveries,” says T.J. Crawford. But while Bank of America is not instituting such elevator policies, other parts of the financial industry are. One financial industry professional, Rudy Loo, has no reason to dream up an elevator speech since he ends up riding up with the folks who sit near him.

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But this doesn’t quite spell the end of the elevator speech. Though the phrase might join the ranks of those idioms with confusing origins, (paint the town red, anyone?) those at the Harvard Business School continue to teach the art of the concise pitch. Christine Sullivan, the school’s director of alumni, career and professional development, says that in a “new 140-character world where everything is reduced to a sound bite it’s more important than ever to be able to deliver a clear and concise message.”

And who says the elevator was the best place to give the pitch, anyhow? Think of all the people watching around you – trapped and unable to go elsewhere –that’s just awkward, too. “Stay in the lobby in front of the elevator door,” advises Charlie O’Donnell a principal with First Round Capital, a seed stage venture capital fund.  “That’s your optimal pitch place.” (via WSJ)

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