An unusual scenario, but a familiar problem... how to grab an audience's attention in an instant, when it's anywhere but the place you need. Simon Hall offers some advice...
Elevators on the buses
How do you lure people out of their own worlds and into yours?
This was the question I had to think about before I took up one of my most unusual writing assignments…
Becoming writer in residence on buses around my native Cambridge.
My new novel, The Editor, is set in the city, and I was asked by Stagecoach to join some of its services to talk to passengers about the book.
The problem… I was very aware of how most people deal with a trip on the bus.
Head down in their phone, a paper, or a book, listening to music.
In other words, hardly receptive to a wandering scribbler trying to engage their interest in his work.
I thought about the problem in advance, as I do, and realised the solution was an old business trick.
The elevator pitch.
The principle is you’ve got the length of a ride in a lift to interest a captive potential customer in your services.
Which means 30 seconds maximum to intrigue and allure.
As so often in life, the most important part is the opening.
If you don’t get people quickly, you don’t tend to get them at all.
As the media were going to be there, and I didn’t want to look a complete fool, I prepared and practised this in advance.
My chosen line…
Would you like to make this journey unique in a good way?
Body language is also important in an elevator pitch, so I was careful to smile and try not to look too threatening (not always easy given the raw materials available.)
But I’m pleased to say it worked.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, (which, if I’m honest, was a surprise) blanked me, or was in any way forthright about being uninterested.
And again, as is so often the case, if you make good headway with your introduction, the rest is straightforward.
I talked about the locations in the book as we passed them, the characters, the story, and the fundamental theme…
How to restore hope in life when you’re wondering what's the point of going on.
The media got their photos, interviews, and video.
The project worked well on social media, and I sold a few more books.
But perhaps more importantly, without being pompous about it, I got to talk to lots of new people about the joy of reading and writing.
And how heartening it was to hear, time and again, just how much people love books.
It was a thoroughly uplifting experience, which yet again demonstrated the importance of good preparation and positive communications.
Apparently it was such a success that we might even be doing it again.
So if you’re on the buses around Cambridge, and a wandering writer lumbers up to you, now you know what’s coming next…
PS. If you're interested in finding out more about The Editor, see here
I'm a lecturer and coach in Communications Skills at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School. I also work in government, and across the private and public sectors.
I can offer communications support in all areas, including:
Branding, reports, investment pitches, presentations and speech writing ~ Conventional and social media ~ Websites ~ Photography and videography ~ Public speaking ~ Crisis communications ~ Building your personal brand