Dreaded by many and needed by all:
The Elevator Pitch
Being able to introduce yourself, your project, your company or your fundraising efforts effectively and, maybe even more importantly memorably, is an art. One that many are struggling with, myself included. Instead of using a few crisp, concise and memorable words, we tend to say far too much, don’t focus on the relevant bits and ramble on and on and on … only to watch the interest disappear from our listener’s eyes.
I’ve been there, I’ve experienced it and I’m done with it. The final push to do something about it was the, in my eyes, brilliant elevator pitch of a woman who organizes children’s play areas. This is how she introduced herself: “I’m Evelyn, The Toy Tamer. I do custom playroom organizing.” She added two or three more sentences providing a bit more context and done. Everyone knows her. Not necessarily as Evelyn, but as “The Toy Tamer”.
Thanks to quite a lot of networking events I attended, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs I spoke with, and research on the internet, I found plenty of information about all the important aspects to keep in mind but interestingly also about the length. If you are not happy with your elevator pitch or even worse, you don’t have one yet, let’s read on and create our own.
What is an elevator pitch or elevator speech?
Before we dive into the “how”, let’s have a quick look at the “what”. My version of an elevator pitch: It’s a short introduction of yourself, your project or your company with the intention to hook your listener, make them curious and wanting to learn more. Find some more detailed definitions below and use them as guideposts. But always remember: Brevity is king!
The information should be condensed in order to express the most important ideas or concepts.
It should spark the listener’s interest in your idea, organization, or background.
It’s designed to get a conversation started.
Don’t use jargon. The only exception: when you speak with insiders or peers.
[…] the first two sentences […] are the most important and should grab the attention of the listener.
How long should an elevator pitch be?
Researching this question online, I found recommendations that varied between seven seconds to two to three minutes. In my opinion, seven seconds seem a little too short, even considering todays often criticized short attention span of people. Thinking of an elevator ride, where the idea of an elevator pitch or speech originated from, I would aim for 30 seconds. A good rule of thumb is to have more than just one version and use them depending on the circumstances, your listener and the purpose of your conversation.
Independent of the time, the first two sentences are always the most important ones. You either make your listener’s eyes sparkle with interest or see them drift away. This is of course not always because you don’t have a good elevator pitch, it could simply mean you are not talking to the right person. But it should serve as a reminder that it pays off to find the right words and focus for your intro.
What should be included in an elevator pitch?
- Who you are you and what you do:
This is kind of obvious, but I mention it anyway. In one sentence, state your name and a brief explanation of what you currently do. Don’t get hung up on titles, they don’t mean a lot, but what you do does.
I’m a writer for the technical products division of company A.
- What distinguishes you from others and why does it matter?
Think in terms of what you love about your work, what special skills you have, how you apply these skills, what difference you make in your company or in your customers’ lives. In short, it’s time to brag. If this is difficult for you, ask colleagues and/or friends. You may be surprised what they will tell you.
I translate complex technical specifications into easy-to-follow instructions that anyone can understand at home. I love being able to distill something complex and full of jargon into simple, clear steps and help people master technology.
- Who is your ideal client or customer?
If you own a business or you work as a consultant, it is important to add who your ideal customer or client is. Questions like company type or organization, values, and size may be relevant for you. If you work with customers or clients one-on-one you may want to be clear about what matters to them, values, age, likes, dislikes, problems they face, etc.
Let’s take a coach or consultant as example.
I work with executives and leaders, facing problems arising among international teams.
I work with leaders in corporations to build trust through better communications and help them reach better results.
Expanding on the example of the tech writer mentioned above we may say:
I focus on technical companies in the XYZ area….
I love to work with technical startups….
- What do you want or what’s next?
This part is often overlooked, telling the listener what you want. Are you in the market for a new job that offers you more challenges in your current field, do you intend to switch industries, are you looking for a more senior role in your or another company, would you like to present your services or products, have you heard about a problem you may be able to solve?
Before you end your pitch or speech, don’t forget to state what you want and suggest the next step. This could be following up with some additional information, asking for the opportunity to present a product, sending your resume, … you name it. Here are some examples:
As a freelance writer: Now I’m looking to branch out and do consulting work so I can apply this expertise to other companies and improve the understanding of their technology.
As someone who sells products or services: If you’re interested, I’m happy to send you some information about my products/services.
If you touched on some specifics during your elevator pitch offer to mail the information discussed or mentioned.
How to create your elevator pitch
Let’s move on to the next step. How do you determine the specifics, the buzzwords, the hook for your elevator pitch? It’s time to grab a pen and paper or get your computer and start brainstorming. For each of the four categories write everything down that comes to your mind. Yes, I said everything. Take your time, be as specific as possible, and most importantly, don’t censor yourself. There is no such thing as right or wrong.
After you’re done with your brain dump, it’s time to prune. What do you want the focus of your elevator pitch to be? What is the most important information someone else should know about you, your company, or your project? Use these questions to get to the core:
- What is your goal?
- Who is your audience? (You may need more than one elevator pitch.)
- Don’t use industry jargon (exception: if you’re talking with industry insiders).
- Where are redundancies?
- What makes you stand out in your field?
- What special skills do you bring to the table?
- What problems do you solve for your company/clients/customers?
- What language do your customers/clients use?
- Why is what you do so important?
- What are your values?
I know it is difficult to delete stuff. We instantly get the feeling of missing out on something, losing a client, a customer, or a job opportunity. That’s why it is so important to be clear about the goal. The more specific you are, the more aligned you are with your values, the more you know about your customers/clients, the more relevant and better your elevator pitch will become.
If you’re like me, I come up with a ton of different versions. I recommend you write them all down and “play” with them. Mix them up, edit them, exchange words, until you find a version you like. I found changing the sentence structure or replacing a word can make all the difference. That’s why I always keep all the versions I created until I’m done.
Ok, we’re not quite done yet. There is one more step I highly recommend you do. Practice, practice, practice. Before you use your elevator pitch or speech, record it, practice it on a friend or with your partner, and ask for feedback. You don’t want your elevator pitch to sound rehearsed or manufactured. In one post I read that you don’t want anyone to feel “networked.” Remember, the purpose of your elevator pitch is to get a conversation started, to make people curious about you, your company, service, or product. You name it. One blogger suggested to use a question as a conversation starter instead of starting with your pitch. The reason being that with this question you may get some crucial information to help you “customize” your pitch.
I’m not ready yet to post my elevator pitch. I started working on it but it’s still a work in progress. I promise I’ll share it so as soon as it’s done. How about you?
Feel free to add your thoughts and recommendations. Or even better, share yours so that we can learn from it.
Talk to you next time!