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.
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An elevator pitch, or an elevator speech, presentation, or story, is a succinct speech that sums up unique aspects of a business and is designed to get a conversation started. Named an "elevator pitch" because it should last no longer than the average elevator ride, it's an important communication tool that should give the audience just enough information to educate but also make them want to know more. A good elevator pitch gives the big picture of the business in an intriguing way.
Why have an elevator pitch?
In any business, great connections are made face-to-face, and sometimes are unplanned. You may find yourself at a trade show standing next to exactly who you wanted to talk to, but have only 30 seconds to start a conversation. 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.
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 interest the audience in continuing to talk. [Related: 9 Elevator Pitches Being Used Now]
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 Chris O'Leary:
Concise – keep the pitch succinct and clear, with as few words as possible.
Clear – an effective elevator pitch should be understood by a layman, rather than being filled with acronyms and industry terminology.
Compelling – what problem does your business solve? 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 – the pitch should stay at a high level and not go into too many details.
Concrete – while high level, the pitch should also be tangible and easily grasped.
Customized – every target audience is different. The pitch should reflect those differences.
Consistent – no matter how many versions you may have of your pitch, they should all convey the same basic message.
Conversational – the idea of an elevator pitch is to start the conversation and hook your target. Keep it casual and don't try to close a deal in the pitch.
An elevator pitch should hook the audience within the first sentence. Keep it fresh and updated. As the market changes, your business will evolve as well. Discuss what sets you apart from the competition and how your business stays relevant. Instead of discussing the ideas behind your business, discuss concrete examples of your accomplishments. It's important to stress the successes of your business and show the confidence you have in your skills. Leave out technical or statistical terminology – your audience doesn't want to hear jargon or numbers.
Adjust the pitch to your audience and refine the pitch as your business grows and changes. Perhaps elements of your elevator pitch don't apply to specific targets – you will need to change your pitch to be more applicable to them. Your audience may also ask follow-up questions that catch you off guard. It's important to be prepared for anything, and the best way to prepare for that is to practice multiple versions of your pitch.
Practice your pitch in the mirror so that you can see your own delivery flaws. After you have it down, take it to family members and friends. If someone outside of your industry can understand your pitch and are drawn in within the first couple of sentences, you have crafted a good elevator pitch.
In this day and age, it's a good idea to get your elevator pitch on video. Even if it's a video caught with your smartphone, you can send your elevator pitch to your audience after you've spoken to them. If they liked what you had to say, they may not be able to recreate your pitch to their colleagues. A short, personal video allows your audience to take your pitch with them and share it with whomever needs to see it. If you have a physical product, it also gives you the chance to show the product in action.
- To get help crafting your elevator pitch, try this Elevator Pitch Builder developed by Harvard Business School
- For a book in elevator pitches, visit Elevator Pitch Essentials by Chris O'Leary