Your Elevator Speech, or Elevator Pitch, is your 30-second to one-minute long response to the question *What do you do?*
Imagine yourself in an elevator with a curator who is in a position to help you in your art career. You say hello to the curator, mention the news you read recently about the forthcoming exhibit they are curating. Then you tell them that you are an artist. The curator replies, “tell me about your art.” You have only so many floors, as the elevator ascends or descends, to give a clear answer and make a positive impression. Do you panic and reply, “oh, ah, OK, I paint and um, I ah….” What message does that send? That you haven’t given your own work much thought? That you are seldom out promoting yourself and therefore an amateur? That the curator would have to spend a lot of time educating you if he or she were to work with you? All of those things? Is that the impression you want to give? Can such a response be traced back to lazy or bad habits? Will such a response hurt your art career?
What impression will a strong confident sentence or two give? Words you feel good speaking out loud. That you are a professional artist serious about your art career? Will a few lines that convey important points about your art spark the interest of others so that they ask more questions? Most likely yes!
You may never find yourself on an elevator with an art curator, but the name *elevator speech* does create a vivid image of limited space and time.
Instances in which artists have used their elevator speeches include, in interviews with magazine editors, at gallery openings, at networking meetings and events, and in casual conversation with potential art collectors while waiting at the car dealership while getting their oil changed.
To begin crafting your elevator speech, start by writing down the three most important things that you do as an artist and cite proof points why your art is important.
For example–which is stronger–a or b below:
a) I’m working on a series of mixed media paintings on canvas, a drawing series and a series of prints.
b) I’m working on a series of mixed media paintings on canvas, a drawing series and a series of prints that received enthusiastic response from library patrons when I exhibited last month at Library of the Stars in Phoenix. One librarian told me that no other art exhibited has brought so many positive comments!
Notice that *b* has added strength with the *proof* of why the art is important–the art was exhibited in a public space, received attention and an enthusiastic response from viewers.
Be sure to sound confident and convey a certain amount of pride and enthusiasm when delivering your elevator speech. Details from a recent event may help.
My latest mixed media paintings, prints and drawings were featured in an article published last month by Yahoo! read by hundreds of art fans!
You should use your elevator speech at every opportunity with anyone who asks what you do. When possible ask for feedback to be sure that you are conveying the information and impression you want . Remember, your elevator speech is meant to be spoken, so you should use word combinations that are easy for your to speak.
If you find it difficult to put your elevator speech together, don’t despair. Yes, it can take many tries, and you will probably work on several versions over weeks, months, or even years!
One key to crafting your elevator speech is knowing who your *ideal customer* or *target market* is and what you wish to communicate to them. What are you *selling* and to whom? Are you trying to get a solo gallery exhibit of your work? Then you want to craft your elevator speech to grab the interest of gallery curators. Ask yourself questions about what a curator looks for? A commercial gallery curator may have an interest in art that sells, so include a line about collectors or commissions in your elevator speech. Find out who the gallery markets to and craft your elevator speech specifically to meet that need. But don’t assume that sales alone are all the curator is interested in. Do your research. Perhaps a particular gallery is seeking the next new trend in art. If your *ideal customer* or *target* is a museum curator, or a curator of a non-profit arts organization, then their concerns usually have more to do with educating their audience than with sales, and you would craft your elevator speech accordingly– perhaps mention museums collections your work is in, or any important artist associations you have, or books you work is in. Perhaps there is an opportunity for the museum or non-profit to sell the book in their shop and that could be leveraged to get your work included in a show.
Your elevator speech is your (abbreviated) story. Tell your story to intrigue others so that they want to engage with your further. Next you will want your story to flow. Some possible directions to take your story may be describing how your art is different, new, or of unique interest to a particular audience, or to mention specific positive benefits others have gained from working with you. Don’t overdo it, or try to tell too much of your story in 30 seconds. What is your goal? Is your goal to get the curators card? Get the curator to agree to meet with you to review your portfolio? To get an art magazine editor to publish a feature on your art? Take it one step at a time. Consider the situation. If you are talking to a curator at a crowded exhibition opening in their gallery, your goal may be to get them to agree to receive an email sample of your art sent to them. Then you would mention that in your email and follow up with a phone call.
In some situation your elevator speech will not allow more. Then it is important to end with a good summary sentence. Something that may stay in their memory or that they will see again, such as your tag line on your website.
Test your elevator speech at every opportunity, get feedback whenever possible and make necessary adjustments. I know that few artists have elevator speeches, and that having one ready when an opportunity arises can make all the difference in getting funding, recognition and making important connections. I work with artists on all aspects of marketing and promotion (Find out about my services here: http://bit.ly/Vart)