What Is an Elevator Pitch?
A well-crafted elevator pitch will help you know what to say if you have just a short amount of time to catch the attention of your audience in a winning message. / Credit: Golden Pixels LLC | Shutterstock

If you craft the perfect elevator pitch, you will never miss another opportunity to tell a potential client, customer or business partner about your business. When properly done, the elevator pitch is a powerful tool that highlights the unique aspects of your business while opening the door for additional communication.

The key to an elevator pitch is length: The pitch should last as long as a typical elevator ride, or about 30 seconds. A longer pitch risks losing your audience's attention, while a shorter one may leave out important details. Equally important is content. Your pitch should include intriguing details about your business, paving the way for questions and conversation.

Why do I need an elevator pitch?

Great connections are made face-to-face, and are sometimes unplanned. You may find yourself at a trade show, standing next to the exact person you wanted to talk to, but you have only 30 seconds to start a conversation. A well-crafted elevator pitch will help you know just what to say if you have only a short amount of time to catch the attention of your audience to deliver a winning message.

Gee Ranasinha, CEO of marketing services provider Kexino, said elevator pitches are integral to modern marketing — and it is important to follow similar guidelines for success.

"As part of an organization's marketing arsenal, elevator pitches are no different to websites, PowerPoint decks or advertising," Ranasinha told Business News Daily. "The very worst thing you can do is what everyone else is doing."

With that in mind, remember that an elevator pitch should not contain intricate details of the business. The goal is to get the audience to understand what the business is about and what it can do for them. The purpose of an elevator pitch is not to close a deal or a sale; rather, it's to make the audience want to continue the conversation. Your pitch should contain salient, intriguing details about your company rather than dry figures. [10 Tips for a Winning Elevator Pitch]

What's the best way to prepare an elevator pitch?

When writing an elevator pitch, consider the nine C's, as laid out by author and entrepreneurship expert Chris O'Leary:

  • Concise. Keep the pitch succinct and clear, with as few words as possible.
  • Clear. The pitch should be easily understood by a layman, rather than filled with acronyms and industry terminology.
  • Compelling. What problem does your business solve, and what can you do for your target audience?
  • Credible. Spell out what makes you qualified to do what you do, without using buzzwords like "outside the box" or "synergy." Using credibility-driven words like "certified" will help sell you.
  • Conceptual. Keep your pitch broad; don't go into too many details.
  • Concrete. The pitch should be tangible and easily grasped by your audience.
  • Customized. Each target audience is different. The pitch should be tailored to the listeners.
  • Consistent. No matter how many versions of your pitch you have, they should all convey the same basic message.
  • Conversational. Start the conversation, and hook your target. Keep it casual, and don't try to close a deal in the pitch.

"Remember that it's not about you," Ranasinha said. "Put yourself in the position of the listener. Shape the value message as a solution to a problem, and keep away from technobabble and jargon. Talk about how you offer a solution to the problem without getting into under-the-hood mechanics of how it works, or why it's better than the competition. Don't tie up every loose end — leave openings for questions."

Ranasinha stressed the need for concision in your pitch. You need to make you point early, and make it clearly.

"Think of your pitch like a blog post," Ranasinha said. "Start off with your strong headline — your value promise — and then spend the rest of the time backing up your position with evidence, case studies or testimonials."

Finally, Ranasinha noted that your elevator pitch shouldn't be a static, memorized statement. Instead of a canned, formulaic, verbatim regurgitation, try to get some audience participation going by asking a question posed as a problem that your product or service solves.

Following these guidelines and spending a few hours crafting, editing and refining your pitch can turn your next unexpected meeting into a world of new opportunities.

Further reading:

Video examples and instruction:

Additional reporting by Elaine J. Hom, Business News Daily contributor.

Originally published on Feb. 11, 2013. Updated Jan. 26, 2015.