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How to meet anyone but lactose-intolerant city dwellers

PD Editor Walt Cooley Published on 30 August 2013

Are any of your friends, family or acquaintances involved in farming or ranching? We probably write a magazine for them.

I recently read an interesting post from Sam Horn at the Lifehack website – if you’ve never heard of the site and enjoy self-help, you’re missing out. He’s a communication and creativity strategist whose clients include Intel, NASA and Cisco.



His article is titled “How to Make Better First Impressions in 60 Seconds,” and I highly recommend it. We’ve posted a link to this column here .

Horn describes in the article how to improve your “elevator pitch.” He writes, “The purpose of an elevator pitch is not to tell people what you do – that’s a monologue. The purpose of an elevator pitch is to create a meaningful conversation – that’s a dialogue.”

Now before I read this, my elevator pitch, or airplane intro, went something like this: “I’m the editor of a dairy magazine.”

While this is an accurate description of my job, it’s really not that interesting. The most I might have ever carried on a conversation beyond that statement might have been to answer one of the following questions.

“Oh, so how many people read your magazine?” “How did you get into that line of work?” The answers to both of those questions are compelling, but most strangers I’ve met aren’t friendly or interested enough to pursue much further of a discussion based on my boring statement.


Why is the new one I’ve created more exciting? It invites strangers to consult their life experiences and find ones that may match those that may actually be helpful to me and my line of work.

Perhaps a stranger I meet might have a friend who is involved in agriculture and doesn’t receive one of our company’s beef, dairy or forage magazines. Perhaps that stranger’s brother has a unique story, one that has never told, that I could get to first. This is the dream of every journalist.

Or perhaps if he or she is really, truly disconnected from agriculture, their negative response might lead to a discussion about how their food is produced.

If a stranger answers no to my first question (“Are any of your friends, family or acquaintances involved in farming or ranching?”), I plan to follow it up with this recovery: “Well, you’re not that uncommon. Many consumers are several generations removed from a farming lifestyle.

We publish magazines for farmers who produce food. My readers are always curious to hear what people like you think of the food they produce.

What questions do you have about where the milk in your coffee, the cheese on your hamburger or the yogurt in your parfait comes from?”


If I don’t completely scare them into getting off the elevator early, I hope this approach might at least lead to a conversation to correct any misconceptions the stranger may have about what manner and by whom their milk is produced.

I’ll admit that this new elevator pitch is still in beta-testing and may undergo refinements. But I found reading Horn’s article and walking through his suggestions a helpful exercise to arrive at a better introduction line.

Altogether, I probably invested 15 minutes of time, and as Horn says, I believe it will be worth the investment: “Think of the millions of dollars in lost opportunities. That’s what happens (or what doesn’t happen) every time we introduce ourselves and people don’t get or want what we do.”

If you’re on your way to Madison, Wisconsin, for World Dairy Expo this year ( Click here to see our show preview), you might try this line when a stranger asks you what you do:

“Do you, your family or friends enjoy [insert any dairy product or brand name you know your milk is processed into]? I’m the farmer that made the milk for that food.”

Of course, you and I will both have a hard time striking up any conversation with these new elevator pitches if we happen to spend a plane ride next to a loner, lactose-intolerant, born-and-bred city dweller. PD


Walt Cooley
Progressive Dairyman
(208) 324-7513