ULIsf: Beyond the Elevator Pitch

Beyond the Elevator Pitch, the professional engagement and speaking workshop put on by the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) in San Francisco, took place on June 3. ULI San Francisco was fortunate to have two ULI writers in attendance: Lauren Kohli, TRC, and Lindsay Pincus, Studio Architecture, to capture their personal experiences from the sold-out event.


On Tuesday, June 3, Holland & Knight hosted a sold-out crowd of women eager to learn about improving our “Elevator Pitches” and making positive lasting impressions on the people that we meet.

The incredibly engaging and insightful Lisa Wentz, founder of the SF Voice Center and one of the top public speaking coaches in the San Francisco Bay area, began the session by asking what we would like to gain from our time with her that day. That should have been the first clue that this program would be a deviation from any other that we might have attended on the subject. This was to be an interactive learning experience, not a “sit and take notes” session.

To begin, several brave volunteers were asked to deliver their standard elevator pitch to the room. The next activity was to pair up with someone in the room that we did not know to exchange our introductions. Lisa then asked us to turn our backs to one another and answer a series of questions about the person that we were just speaking with. Instead of asking us what company the other person works for or what they do, the questions were simple—Is the person wearing a watch? What color are their eyes? Lisa explained that to really hear one another, you not only have to listen with your ears, but dedicate your entire attention to the conversation, including picking up on physical traits and non-verbal cues. It becomes so easy to fall into the trap of thinking of what you are going to say next or how the person might be beneficial to your career. Taking the time to have meaningful interactions with each other often falls by the wayside.

Next, the volunteers that delivered their pitch in the beginning of the session were given feedback on how to improve. Lisa effortlessly intertwined traditional guidance like “stand up straight” and “leave your arms resting at your sides,” with advice that was more tailored to individual speaking mechanics, and the overall improvement was notable.

The ultimate purpose of an elevator pitch is to connect with a person and build a relationship that might be beneficial to your career in the future. I would argue, however, that as we move further away from traditional interactions and toward social media, successful networking takes more than clearly communicating your message—it takes engaging with people in a pertinent and interesting way that makes them remember you in a positive light. Lisa emphasized this point by stressing the need to find common ground; if your initial introduction is not met with enthusiasm, adjust your focus as you learn more about the other person. She also touched upon the subjects of supporting each other as women and taking every possibility to deliver presentations and speak about what we do for a living, which seamlessly supports the ULI Women’s Leadership Initiative mission of raising the visibility and number of women leaders in ULI and the real estate industry.

We covered a dizzying array of topics within the hour (from breath control to posture), but somehow, Lisa was able to weave all of these ideas together into a valuable, cohesive package for us to take home with us. I went in hoping to improve my presentation skills, and walked out with not only practical tips on how to improve my own pitch, but with a better understanding of how to form meaningful, lasting business relationships.

Authored by Lauren Kohli, TRC


I was lucky enough to attend WLI’s “Beyond the Elevator Pitch” with a group of amazing ULI women last Tuesday, June 3, at Holland & Knight’s offices in downtown San Francisco. The speaker was Lisa Wentz, a communication and public speaking expert and accent specialist. Before we got started on her exercises, she opened it up to the floor and asked us to share what we were hoping to gain from her program (“Confidence! Content! Kick the nerves to the curb!”). Going into this program we knew we were going to have to contribute in some way, but when she asked for three people to come up and give their elevator pitch in front of a room full of professional women, I think we all heard our stomachs drop for a quick moment (at least mine did). Once the initial nerves subsided, a few brave women raised their hands and went for it. I won’t speak for anyone else, but I was glad to be off the hook for the moment, although telling myself that I should have jumped at the chance and not let nerves get in the way. Next time, right? Giving a 30 second elevator pitch seems reasonably simple when standing in a casual group, but when asked to stand in front of a room, most of us resist. Lisa wanted us all to remove that fear in us and speak up.

After the three volunteers gave their pitches we were asked to begin the A/B exercise – find a partner in the room and deliver our elevator pitch one on one. Person A delivers her pitch to person B at which time we were instructed to turn our backs to each other. Lisa asked questions aloud to person B to see how well person B was observing. What color are her eyes? What color are her shoes? Was she wearing a watch? Name one thing you liked about person A. This was an examination of how closely we were paying attention to our partner (I barely passed). We repeated this exercise with another partner. What was astonishing to me was how much more astute I aimed to be on this next round. My mind was racing to remember all the things Lisa asked about the first time. All the while wondering/worrying if she will be asking entirely different questions. Let the worries set in. In the end, I realized how much more observant I was toward my second partner, it truly amazed me. It took me right back to the name and purpose of this event – it wasn’t only about perfecting our elevator pitch, but focusing on what’s behind it and beyond, and that being as good a listener as an orator is key to building a strong personal brand for oneself.

Lisa reminded us of a simple yet often forgotten point: that we are all experts on ourselves, and with the right tone of voice we will never sell that short. I walked away feeling inspired to take on the world one ULI event at a time.

Authored by Lindsay Pincus, Studio Architecture

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