The Elevator Tease: Making the Most of Chance Encounters

Why tease?

Why not pitch?

When exactly do you think it’s appropriate to pitch a total stranger, a captive audience with no escape, for 10 floors?


The whole idea is silly.

Do *you* like receiving a barrage of information about someone’s business?

What you want to do is intrigue. Entice. Learn about the other person’s company and his or her needs. Get a business card. And then follow up later.

The same applies for networking events, where arguably it would be more socially appropriate to launch into a pitch.

Unless you’re at a pitch meeting or another event with the specific, stated (think Shark Tank) purpose of delivering pitches to a willing audience, don’t pitch.

What do you do instead? It depends. No one solution fits every situation, but here are some ideas to consider:

1. If you find yourself alone in the elevator (or similar situation) with your company president, an investment banker, or a well-known news anchor, try this: Introduce yourself (complete with handshake and confident smile). Engage in a bit of conversation if time allows (if you’re getting off on the next floor, there’s no time!). Then say you have something you’d love to talk with him or her about, but that you don’t want to pounce in an elevator (or whatever language seems natural for you that conveys this general idea). Then ask for a card.

What if they say no, and won’t give you a card?

It depends on how they say it. If you believe they don’t carry cards, ask if you can connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

If you think they’re merely being politely evasive, then let it go.

If they’re not going to give you a card, your pitch would have fallen on deaf ears anyway. This way, though, you’ve established a smidgeon of rapport first, and have consequently separated yourself from the masses who just blurt out their needs to them.

2. What if you’re in an elevator with a colleague or other peer you think might be able to use your services? Again, introduce yourself. And again, ask for a card. Look at the card. Figure out something intelligent to ask the person about what he or she does. Then ask if it’s ok to follow up.

Some people just aren’t receptive to being approached, but you’ve lost nothing and possibly instead have opened a door that would have slammed shut if you’d launched into your pitch instead.

Worth noting is that people generally have a preferred way to communicate. Some like the phone. Some like email. Some like meetings. Ask what this particular person prefers, and then use that method.

Yes, occasionally a seemingly nice person will give you the way that allows him or her to avoid you, but once again, you are no worse off than if you hadn’t asked to begin with.

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3. How do you respond if someone actually asks what you do? Gauge how much time you have. If you have enough time to draw them out about themselves a bit further before answering, then do so. Be careful so you don’t come across as being in the witness protection program, though. The goal is to find out just enough to make your response relevant, not to be evasive.

If you don’t have enough time remaining, then deliver a concise version of what you do, ask for a card, and ask if you can follow up to learn more about what they do.

In this type of situation, for example, I might say “We create memorable print materials, websites, and video” if it seems appropriate to mention Type Monkeys.

If I’m talking about DT Legal Consulting, I might say “I help attorneys find the right law firm for their clients and their practice.”

For Goals With Heart: “I help people discover their life’s passion.”

This type of basic introduction is perfect for networking events, too.

To summarize, the idea is to get information that allows you to take control of the situation (a card to follow up), and to focus on the other person’s needs. You’re not trying to sell anyone, and you’re not trying to close a deal. You’re not even, at this point, trying to arrange a meeting.

What you *are* doing is establishing an authentic human connection that lays the foundation for future interactions.

You’ll be memorable, in a positive way.

For more information and suggestions for pitching, visit:

What do you do to make the most of chance encounters?