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The Power of a Minute

Most people think a minute isn’t enough time to get your point across.

My thinking is if you can’t explain it in a minute, it’s not clear to you. Reporters, CEOs and fast-paced executives don’t have time for long-winded explanations.

Look at it this way: If you write, think of editing down to a core essence of an idea. If you cook, think of reduction, boiling something down to a dense sauce. If you decorate, think of designing streamlined rooms with no clutter. Picture a Panini sandwich. It’s pressed all the way down, but it’s all there. Learn to say more in less time.

People talk about the “elevator pitch” and how everyone needs one.

Well, they’re right. We all do. You never know when you’re going to run into someone you’ve been trying to reach. Then suddenly, you’re face-to-face. Now what? Well, if you’re prepared, you have that extraordinary moment, that serendipitous second, that you’ve been dreaming about. You have that person’s undivided attention…for one minute. Make it count.

This is what happened to me at Book Expo America. That’s a publishing industry trade show conference with many of the big guns in publishing. Not just editors and marketing professionals, but some of the heads of publishing houses as well.

Someone suggested I go over and meet one of the publishers.

So I went over to the booth and asked when he would be there. I was told he had a 2:00 o’clock meeting. I said, “Great. I’ll wait here. It’s only ten minutes away.” There I was, patiently waiting. At exactly two minutes before two, he showed up. I stepped up, introduced myself and asked, “Do you have a minute?” He said he had an appointment in two minutes. I said, “I only need a minute.” He said, “Really?” I said, “Really.” Startled, he said, “Okay.”

So I started my pitch.

Within the first twenty seconds, he interrupted me and asked a question. I asked him, “Is this part of your minute or part of mine? Because if it’s your time, you’ve got give me back my time.” He laughed and said, “Okay, it’s on my time.” So I answered his question. Then, he asked another question. I said, “If you keep asking questions, I’ll never be able to finish in a minute.”  So he said, “All right, go.” I finished my elevator pitch in less than 60 seconds. The publisher said, “Wow, I can’t believe how much you said in a minute.” I said, “Well, I would have been done sooner, if you’d stop interrupting me!” He laughed again.

He said he was intrigued about my Mental Peanut Butter® idea and asked me to send him my manuscript. We had many conversations about proceeding, but we didn’t move forward at that time. Three years later, I got a call from his office. He told his staff to find the “Mental Peanut Butter® lady.” He couldn’t remember my name, but he remembered my pitch. We worked for months on ideas to move forward. But, we never did.

That’s not important.

What is important is that I stood out from all the people he met at the conference of more than 30,000 attendees. I was memorable. My pitch left an impact. And, years later someone on his staff tracked me down and called.

When anyone says to me, “I need more time to explain it,” I think what if you only had a minute? You never know when that will happen. Drill it down. Get ready. And fire when the opportune time comes.

Ask yourself:

Is your pitch as polished as it should be? If not, why? Right now. Sit down and work. This could become a life-changing moment. That is, if you’ve got a minute!


Margo Berman is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire