Delivery Message

A 30-Second Presentation

Yes, I counted myself among the more than 100,000 faithful Comic-Con attendees last week. And no, I didn’t wear a costume. Actually, aside from my work at Duarte Design, I give a workshop every year at Comic-Con called “Goal Setting for Creative Types” and I find it a great place to exercise my presenting chops.

My presentation happened on Thursday night, and it went great. Very energetic crowd, lots of questions, and quite a few people came up to talk at the end.

But that wasn’t the only presentation I gave at Comic-Con. Thursday morning, in fact, on my way down from breakfast, I said hello to the couple riding the elevator with me.

“What do you do?” the husband asked.

“I’m here giving a presentation on goal setting,” I said. “And you?”

“I’m an animator and a director for The Simpsons,” he said.

We continued making small-talk all the way over to the convention center, and both he and his wife were very gracious. But when we parted ways, I thought about what had just happened. He and I each made a presentation to each other, right there on the elevator.

So how did I do?

This happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Someone pops an innocent question like that, and we stumble through a response or we just answer without thinking. Now, if you happen to work on The Simpsons, your presentation almost writes itself, but most of us don’t, so what do we do?

Well here’s the thing about presentations. They all follow the same rules, regardless of length:

  • Consider your audience
  • Tell a good story

When I think back to my brief elevator presentation (and every other “elevator pitch” I made at Comic-Con) I try to hold it up against those two questions. And, believe it or not, I practiced and revised it. By the end of the convention, my answer was usually a variation on this:

“I help people reach their goals.”

And it was usually accompanied by my business card (the visual part of my elevator presentation).

At Duarte, we don’t usually write 30-second elevator presentations for our clients, but we do practice what we preach, and we look for any excuse to exercise our storytelling muscles. So why not take five minutes right now and think about your own elevator presentation? Does it tell your story? If not, there’s no better time than now to make it better. (Before you get caught in an elevator without a good story!)

Doug Neff


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  • Sjoerd

    Now *this* was an eye opener. Thanks!

  • Thats cool, I went to Comic Con this year also, it was rad!

  • wow.

    I’ve so much to learn.

    thank you.

    But your story leaves a question in my mind:

    what was it that motivated him to ask you in the first place?”

    ~BlueBerry Pick’n
    We, two, form a Multitude” ~ Ovid.
    Silent Freedom is Freedom Silenced

  • Hmm, I can’t say for sure, but I suspect he was just being friendly.

    But if he hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have asked, either. And that was a good lesson for me. At a place like Comic-Con, there are just SO many people to meet and so many interesting conversations to be had, you almost can’t afford not to ask people about themselves.

    Check out Keith Ferrazzi’s work on networking and relationship-building (like his book “Never Eat Alone”). I suspect he would agree with me.

  • Great succint post.

    I’ve forwarded it to a member of our Toastmasters Club who has his own business and is looking for the elusive elevator speech.

    The other thing I suggested he look at was “Made To Stick”.

    Wouldn’t that be a great challenge – design an elevator speech so memorable it sticks forever!

  • It’s interesting to note the difference between the two pitches; the elevator one, and the one you practiced afterwards. The elevator one was kind of boring, hard to relate to, and didn’t really prompt a response other than, “Oh.” The second one invited a question, i.e. “What kind of people?; people like me?” or “What types of goals?” You’ve encouraged me to practice my elevator speech so that I’m always prepared to present myself in the best light. Thanks!