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How to Make Sure Your Elevator Pitch Isn't a Downer

How to Make Sure Your Elevator Pitch Isn't a Downer

Think like a sniper and not a machine-gunner to successfully employ your "elevator pitch" — the story you quickly tell someone with the goal of securing a business deal, new job, connection or favor. Otherwise, the experts say, you’ll waste your opportunity and leave a bad impression.

“The thing is, if you miss with your first shot, you’ve not got any more chances. The ‘target’ takes evasive action and you've missed your chance,” said Simon Raybould, a marketing guru and director of business-consulting firm Aware Plus, based in England.

Knowing when to give your pitch, how long it should be, how much information is too much information: They are all key to delivering an effective elevator pitch — a term that's used because you should be able to complete it in the time it takes to complete an elevator ride.

BusinessNewsDaily has assembled a team of experts to help you create and dispense an elevator pitch that, with luck, will leave your listener eager to know more.

What does an elevator pitch do, and how long should it be?

An EP usually answers the question “What do you do?” or is a short story about your business, product, service or experience.

“The end goal is to set up a follow-up time to talk,” said Barbara Fuller, a professional and personal coach at Focus on You Now. “It is beneficial to build a network for your career, personally or your business.”

Some experts suggest making pitches as short as 7 seconds or as long as 90. Most recommend staying between 30 and 60 seconds, similar to quick and clever TV commercials.

What should an EP include?

Communication specialist Robyn Hatcher compares elevator pitches to her son’s baseball pitches: Just like a pitcher on the mound, business people should have several different pitches ready to throw because every listener — just like every batter — is different.

Other experts agree people need to have more than one spiel available. Time, atmosphere and, most important, the listener will influence your decision on which pitch to toss. If you’re a business person, include your name, profession, company name and description of your business’s product or service.

“As you pitch, it’s important to remember that you’re in conversation with another person, so be prepared to pause and be flexible and remember to engage them,” said Hatcher, owner of communication skills training company SpeakEtc. “How you deliver a pitch is often more important than what you say in a pitch.”

When is a good time to use an EP?

For business people, the best times to unleash a pitch are when you and your target are in captive environments such as an elevator, in line, or other places where you won't be taking the listener away from something else.

“Often the recipient doesn’t even know you are about to pitch the idea,” said John Torrens, assistant professor of entrepreneurial practice at Syracuse University.

Conferences and networking events are ideal locations, too.

“The point of the pitch is to generate enough interest from a potential investor that you get invited back to provide more details about the opportunity. It’s a first step or foot in the door toward obtaining capital to launch or grow the business.”

 

Check them out: The Best Real-Life Elevator Pitches

 

What are some examples of good EPs?

Effective pitches capture listeners’ imaginations and tell listeners what results you provide.

“When people ask, ‘What do you do?’ they are really asking, ‘What can you do for me?’” said Lorraine Howell, author of “Give Your Elevator Speech a Lift!” (Book Publishers Nework, 2006).

“How you answer that question determines whether the conversation continues or stops dead in its tracks. An elevator pitch is not a data dump, where you tell them everything about everything in 30 seconds or less. It's that opening tease that has your audience say, “Ooh, tell me some more about that,’ or, ‘How do you do that?’”

Howell suggests using clever ways to describe your job title and what you do. For example, massage therapists could call themselves “body detectives”; environmental engineers could reveal they “dig in the dirt for a living”; and stagers who prepare homes to sell could say they “play with houses.”

Other tips:
- Sound genuine, not rehearsed.
- Be enthusiastic and compelling, not nervous and fidgety.
- Don’t use jargon or technical words that someone outside your industry won’t understand.
- Be confident. If you’re not confident in what you’re pitching, your listener will not remember it or you.