If you've been to a business networking event, you've no doubt been bombarded by elevator pitches. At the end of the night, though, only a few will stand out in your mind — and fewer still will result in sought-after contacts. What sets those pitches apart, and how can you ensure that yours generates interest and conversation?
Whether you're looking for investors or just trying to get people interested in your business, your success depends on your ability to explain what makes your business unique and to hook your listener in less than a minute. Entrepreneurs and business professionals share their best tips for writing and delivering a great elevator pitch.
Start off strong. "Eighty percent of your success will depend on your opening line. It must snag your listener's interest and make them want to know more. Do this right, and your prospects will follow you, wanting more." – Bert Martinez, founder and president of Bert Martinez Communications [8 Essential Questions Your Elevator Pitch Should Answer]
Tell what you do, not what you are. "'I'm an accountant.' 'I'm a chiropractor.' 'I'm a virtual assistant.' This kind of answer only gives a tiny glimpse into what you really do. There's nothing about this kind of answer that is going to set you apart from the hundreds or thousands of other people doing the same thing. Plus, it can be boring! And no one wants to be boring." – Jennifer Martin, founder of Zest Business Consulting
Repeat key information. "Oftentimes, people mention their business name only once, or not at all. It is much more useful to say, 'My name is Steve Schwartz. I'm a website designer with PD-go! Web Solutions.' Then, at the end of the pitch, say it again: 'I'm Steve Schwartz with PD-go! Web Solutions.' Repetition is important. That's why you hear the website address or phone number several times in a radio ad — it helps it sink in!" – Steve Schwartz, owner of PD-go! Web Solutions
Be interesting, but authentic. "While creating interest and value is key, remember to be authentic and realistic. Making outlandish claims about your company will eventually be discovered, and your integrity will be diminished." – Ed Cederquist, CEO and co-founder of bistroMD
Prioritize your pitch. "Be specific, but use plain language when describing the problem your product or service solves. If it solves several problems, prioritize and stick with the most important one. Stick with what problem you are solving, who will benefit the most from your solution and why people should believe that you can do it." – Andrey Mihailenko, vice president of marketing and sales at Targetprocess
Know your audience. "When crafting your elevator pitch, you first need to think about who you'll be in the elevator with. A good pitch will shift depending on the audience you're trying to reach. Lead with the information that the recipient will care most about, and the rest will follow." – Andrew Cross, senior account director at Walker Sands Communications
Focus on what matters. "Avoid telling your listener that you have a 'revolutionary idea.' Whatever you're pitching is not revolutionary. Words like that can automatically put investors off. Instead, explain why you are the person to do this and why you're solving this problem [based on] your experiences." – Ebong Eka, CPA and author of "Start Me Up!: The No-Business Plan Business Plan" (Career Press, 2014)
Keep it conversational. "You want to stand out and generate excitement. Don't regurgitate a memorized pitch that sounds like a pharmaceutical ad. When I hear a pitch, I don't necessarily want to feel like I am being pitched. I would rather have it be more conversational. Start with the problem you are trying to solve, the way the current alternatives are lacking. Then, briefly describe your solution." – John Torrens, assistant professor of entrepreneurial practice at Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management
Think about your end goal. "You should build your exit strategy along with your business plan. Investors [hearing your pitch] want to know that you've evaluated the risk and have thought your plan through from soup to nuts." – Summer Kramer, founder of SummerSkin
Make a connection. "An elevator speech is an important networking tool. It should serve as a verbal business card that provides a brief, compelling introduction to one's company and intrigues new acquaintances to seek more information. At your earliest opportunity [after giving your pitch], express an interest in your new acquaintance and learn as much as you can about him or her. The information you gain will provide insight as you proceed with efforts to build a genuine, mutually beneficial relationship." – Juana Hart, founder of J-Hart Communications
"Finish your pitch by asking the other person what they do. It starts an actual conversation and allows you to actually connect, even after the elevator ride is over." – Stacey Hawley, founder of Credo
Tell, don't sell. "A big part of your job is to motivate people to act, whether you're trying to close funding, attract talent or acquire new customers. [To do this], you have to be prepared to tell a compelling and unforgettable story that draws your audience in. When it comes to pitching your startup, my advice is to tell, not sell your story." – Sue McGill, co-founder and executive director of JOLT
Open the door to continue the conversation. "Your elevator pitch is simply an introduction to your company, not a sale you have to close. End by summarizing your top talking points and offering a way for the prospect to get in touch with you. Be sure to have your business card on hand." — Alex Membrillo, founder and CEO of Cardinal Web Solutions
Originally published on Feb. 28, 2013. Updated on April 30, 2015. Additional reporting by Business News Daily contributor Katherine Arline and social media specialist Dave Mielach.