Sunday, February 18, 2007

How Not to Pitch David Bowie in an elevator

PitchGirl; In an elevator with David Bowie—How I Blew my chance with Bowie and how that led to my Dream Job of Pitching for a living!
When I used to work for a small indie book publishing company in trendy, Soho, New York, I once found myself sharing an elevator with David Bowie. Starstruck, I just stood there for a few floors, knowing that I was missing my one and only opportunity to speak to the man who brought me, "Changes," "Modern Love" "China Girl" and so many other shiny pop/punk songs of my youth. It was only a 12 story building, so I knew time was running out.
"Mr. Bowie, I am SUCH A HUGE FAN." I stammered. "Are you going to Details magazine for a photo shoot?" I asked, desperate to have any interaction with him. Details Magazine had a floor in the building and that was the only thing I could think to say. (Are you going to Details? What a ridiculous question. I immediately felt like an ass.)
"No, I’m going to Philip’s studio," he said with a gleaming white smile, as he politely exited on the 9th floor. Philip, by the way, is Philip Glass the experimental music composer, who also shared space in the building. My friend Alex was in the elevator with me and was thrilled that I was even able to bring myself to speak to Bowie. This encounter bothered me for years, because I felt I could have done so much more with that opportunity—even though it was probably less than 30 seconds from the time the elevator doors opened to the time the doors closed.
Fast forward to the year 2001 and the U.S. economy is a disaster. New York is reeling from 9/11. Every person I have ever worked with, met at a cocktail party, dated for more than 10 minutes, is now calling me looking for advice and job leads. The stories were all the same,
"Laura, I just got downsized, who do you know that’s looking to hire. I’ll do whatever I need to do, work at Starbuck’s, wait tables, you name it, I’ll do it. I just gotta make rent."
For the first time since I moved to the city in 1989, I did not know anyone looking to hire. I started to realize that if all of these newly jobless people in my rapidly expanding circle of friends were going to find a job, any job, anytime soon, they were going to need to learn a lesson from my elevator ride with Bowie. They were going to need to learn to pitch themselves and they were going to have to learn to do it very fast and very well. They could not blow that opportunity in an elevator with Bowie or anyone else.
The way that I was going to survive this economic downturn was to help everyone else get a job or get more clients. I wasn’t sure exactly how this was going to work, I only knew that I was broke and unemployed too and at least this would be a good thing to do and it would keep me busy so that I would not have time to freak out.

My boyfriend Jim and I started thinking about how we could help. He came up with the concept of the 15 second pitch. The 15SecondPitch would be the new, updated version of the 2 minute elevator pitch.
We figured that two minutes was too long for a pitch and that most buildings were not that tall anyway. The pitch had to be clear, concise, creative and most importantly, it had to be quick. Salespeople, Hollywood screenwriters and entrepreneurs looking for Venture Capital were all completely aware of the power of having a great pitch. So why couldn’t this work for job seekers, consultants and career changers? We knew that it could!
In 2007, we currently have over 2,300 members on our website who have created and posted their 15SecondPitch for people in over 60 countries around the world to see for free. I have trained hundreds of people to craft and deliver their pitch to get the job or clients that they want. I’ve coached people to make seemingly impossible career changes. A few of my clients have started their own small businesses on the side and are nearly ready to ditch their day jobs. Other clients have landed their dream jobs with out-of-this-world salaries attached. It’s been a fun, crazy few years of building a business based on a real need for people to find work. And while I was helping my extended circle of friends, I also found my life’s purpose. I will always know what to say to David Bowie and anyone else I might meet in an elevator--or anywhere else.