The Ups and Downs of an Elevator Speech

A few years ago, a younger and less experienced me stepped onto an elevator of the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville with Sparrow artist, Susan Ashton.  I was there for a music conference with a few thousand other musicians and I think Susan was doing a showcase to play songs from her new record.  I had never met, or even seen Susan Ashton in person before that minute.  I was of course, familiar with her records so this was the prime time for me to move into marketing mode.

Now, if you aren’t aware of musician/songwriter etiquette this story may not resonate with you.  So let me just say that music connections in Nashville are built around relationships.  For example, if I am interested in working with an artist to co-write a new song with them it’s first about small talk, coffee meetings and chit-chat about family and fishing trips, hobbies and friends and such.  Then, after we see we like each other enough to share royalties, then, maybe, we can set up a writing date.  It goes without saying that rushing up to someone locked in an elevator and blurting out your desire to write their next hit song isn’t really the strongest presentation.

Without going into all the details of my astounding self-introduction that I brandished like a gun in a bank robbery, I will simply say that the very gracious Susan Ashton smiled at my forward approach and simply got off on her floor.  We have never co-written a song.  Too bad… for me. Susan went on to be picked up as an artist by Capital Records and also recorded “The Gift” and a Harry Nilsson cover “Without You” with Colin Raye. I ran into her a few weeks ago and talked with her a few minutes about the “elevator speech” I made in the sixty seconds from the ground to the floor she stepped off onto.  She claims no memory of the event, mercifully.

I understand the need to capsulize in a succinct way the summation of who you are in a well-worded paragraph.  It is one of the hallmarks of advertising.  If you don’t know who you are and what you do, then how will anyone else know? But in some situations the emphasis on elevator speeches is greatly exaggerated.  No well-rehearsed, polished, self-exultation will ever replace getting to know people on a human level.  The power of human interaction is undeniable and is the stuff of which locker room deals and golf games are constructed.  Friends help friends.  Nothing can replace that power.  Every story I know of success includes the support and investment of others who believe in that person and his ideas.  Make it your objective to connect with real humans whom you actually know and be a real friend.  You may rise faster than you expect.

©2012 Steven Blanton

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