01/09/2013 06:05 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2013

Elevator Pitch Evolution


I talk to strangers. A lot.

This a) terrifies my mother, b) sometimes embarrasses my friends and c) has created some awkward situations.

In fact, as I write this in a hotel lobby, I've been holding intermissions for conversations with a woman talking to me about her family life, including her repulsive ex-husband. But that is neither here nor there.

Despite playing therapist and being exposed to sufficiently uncomfortable stories, my ability to approach unfamiliar faces been more beneficial than not.

I've made (and kept) very good friends as well as professional contacts and even garnered a job. One opportunity started with an elevator pitch -- coincidentally, in an elevator.

"I love your headband!" I declared, entranced by a headpiece with three mesh flowers. The brunette donning the accessory turned with a smile, "Thanks! It's Colette Malouf."

Completely pushing aside my oh-so-extensive preference of hair accessories (hair tie or no hair tie), and the disinterest of the other four people among us, I pressed on. "What's that?"

Though I was supposed to exit five floors sooner, my quick comrade invited me to the company's showroom. Within 30 seconds, I had learned that the brand sold its merchandise at Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman, and the CEO worked from the office.

We discussed my Public Relations experience. I discovered the company might be looking for a publicist to help out. Would I like to see the latest collection? Sure, I agreed. Why not?

Scanning the showroom, I felt giddy -- like when I decide diets are overrated and Dylan's Candy Bar welcomes me with open arms. Headbands, clips, barrettes, necklaces, cuffs, bracelets and rings sparkled brightly, despite the gloomy day outside.

In the showroom, I was introduced to Colette, the namesake, CEO and designer of the brand. We chatted about my PR background -- where I had been, where I was going, who I knew and mutual our contacts. We exchanged information. I emailed her with my resume and relevant experience the next day.

For five months, I worked with Colette Malouf's team as a PR consultant (ultimately leaving to pursue other opportunities). Regardless, my stint would have been non-existent if I hadn't effortlessly complimented a complete stranger in a crowded elevator.

The flaw of the elevator pitch is this: While it's meant to create conversation and open up opportunities, the main focus is to approach big shots only. Had Colette herself been in the elevator and wearing an amazing accessory, I would have said the same thing -- but she wasn't in the vicinity. (Side note: I wouldn't have known who she was, anyway.) But instead of the CEO/Designer, another employee was returning from lunch at the same time as me.

The simple solution? Talk to everyone, about everything -- about anything -- with sincerity.

Had it been a head of highlights rather than a high fashion headband, I'm not sure I would have pursued the conversation with as much enthusiasm. Because I was genuinely interested in learning more (seriously, I was obsessed with this headband), I followed up with questions and conveyed my passion to assist the team using my expertise.

Like Colette's brand, which started with one design (the Malouf Pouf), my gig started with the appreciation for one wire mesh flower headband.

All it takes is one conversation.