Crafting an Elevator Pitch

Introducing Your Company Quickly and Compellingly

(Also known as an Elevator Speech or Elevator Statement)

How to write an elevator pitch

Spark interest in what you do.

© iStockphoto/07_av

You've just bumped into a former client at the airport. After exchanging pleasantries, he asks you what your new company does. You open your mouth, and then pause. Where on earth do you start?

Then, as you try to organize your thoughts, his flight is called, and he's on his way. If you'd been better prepared, you're sure that he'd have stayed long enough to schedule a meeting.

This is one situation where it helps to have an "elevator pitch." This is a short, pre-prepared speech that explains what your organization does, clearly and succinctly.

In this article, we'll explore situations where these are useful, and we'll look at how to craft an effective pitch.

About the Technique

An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that you use to spark interest in what your organization does. You can also use them to create interest in a project, idea, or product – or in yourself. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds, hence the name.

They should be interesting, memorable, and succinct. They also need to explain what makes you – or your organization, product, or idea – unique.

When to use an Elevator Pitch

Some people think that this kind of thing is only useful for salespeople who need to pitch their products and services. But you can also use them in other situations.

For example, you can use one to introduce your organization to potential clients or customers. You could use them in your organization to sell a new idea to your CEO, or to tell people about the change initiative that you're leading. You can even craft one to tell people what you do for a living.

Creating an Elevator Pitch

It can take some time to get your pitch right. You'll likely go through several versions before finding one that is compelling, and that sounds natural in conversation.

Follow these steps to create a great pitch, but bear in mind that you'll need to vary your approach depending on what your pitch is about.

1. Identify Your Goal

Start by thinking about the objective of your pitch.

For instance, do you want to tell potential clients about your organization? Do you have a great new product idea that you want to pitch to an executive? Or do you want a simple and engaging speech to explain what you do for a living?

2. Explain What You Do

Start your pitch by describing what your organization does. Focus on the problems that you solve and how you help people. If you can, add information or a statistic that shows the value in what you do.

Ask yourself this question as you start writing: what do you want your audience to remember most about you?

Keep in mind that your pitch should excite you first; after all, if you don't get excited about what you're saying, neither will your audience. Your pitch should bring a smile to your face and quicken your heartbeat. People may not remember everything that you say, but they will likely remember your enthusiasm.

Example:

Imagine that you're creating an elevator pitch that describes what your company does. You plan to use it at networking events. You could say, "My company writes mobile device applications for other businesses." But that's not very memorable!

A better explanation would be, "My company develops mobile applications that businesses use to train their staff remotely. This results in a big increase in efficiency for an organization's managers."

That's much more interesting, and shows the value that you provide to these organizations.

3. Communicate Your USP

Your elevator pitch also needs to communicate your unique selling proposition  , or USP.

Identify what makes you, your organization, or your idea, unique. You'll want to communicate your USP after you've talked about what you do.

Example:

To highlight what makes your company unique, you could say, "We use a novel approach because unlike most other developers, we visit each organization to find out exactly what people need. Although this takes a bit more time, it means that on average, 95 percent of our clients are happy with the first beta version of their app."

4. Engage With a Question

After you communicate your USP, you need to engage your audience. To do this, prepare open-ended questions (questions that can't be answered with a "yes" or "no" answer) to involve them in the conversation.

Make sure that you're able to answer any questions that he or she may have.

Example:

You might ask "So, how does your organization handle the training of new people?"

5. Put it all Together

When you've completed each section of your pitch, put it all together.

Then, read it aloud and use a stopwatch to time how long it takes. It should be no longer than 20-30 seconds. Otherwise you risk losing the person's interest, or monopolizing the conversation.

Then, try to cut out anything doesn't absolutely need to be there. Remember, your pitch needs to be snappy and compelling, so the shorter it is, the better!

Example:

Here's how your pitch could come together:

"My company develops mobile applications that businesses use to train their staff remotely. This means that senior managers can spend time on other important tasks.

"Unlike other similar companies, we visit each organization to find out exactly what people need. This means that, on average, 95 percent of our clients are happy with the first version of their app.

"So, how does your organization handle the training of new people?"

6. Practice

Like anything else, practice makes perfect. Remember, how you say it is just as important as what you say. If you don't practice, it's likely that you'll talk too fast, sound unnatural, or forget important elements of your pitch.

Set a goal to practice your pitch regularly. The more you practice, the more natural your pitch will become. You want it to sound like a smooth conversation, not an aggressive sales pitch.

Make sure that you're aware of your body language   as you talk, which conveys just as much information to the listener as your words do. Practice in front of a mirror or, better yet, in front of colleagues until the pitch feels natural.

As you get used to delivering your pitch, it's fine to vary it a little – the idea is that it doesn't sound too formulaic or like it's pre-prepared, even though it is!

Tip 1:

You may want to keep small take-away items with you, which you can give to people after you've delivered your pitch. For example, these could be business cards or brochures that talk about your product idea or business.

Tip 2:

Remember to tailor your pitch for different audiences, if appropriate.

Key Points

An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that you can use to spark interest in what your organization does. You can also use one to create interest in a project, idea, or product.

It needs to be succinct, while conveying important information.

To craft a great pitch, follow these steps.

  • Identify your goal.
  • Explain what you do.
  • Communicate your USP.
  • Engage with a question.
  • Put it all together.
  • Practice.

Try to keep a business card or other take-away item with you, which helps the other person remember you and your message. And cut out any information that doesn't absolutely need to be there.

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Comments (11)
  • Rachel wrote Over a month ago
    Hi all,

    In this week's Featured Favorite, we look at how you can use an ""elevator pitch"" to sell your products and services, and even yourself.

    Best wishes,
    Rachel
  • wrote Over a month ago
    Hi haphazard,

    One way I got my trainers up to speed was to assign a topic related to a skill we were learning and had them write an elevator pitch about the value of the skill.

    I would then schedule video conferences during their coaching sessions and have them "pitch" to me regarding the skill. We would then talk about how it felt, what was better, what was still challenging. Eventually, it became easier for them to do and it got diving into the skills I needed them to learn.

    They seemed to enjoy it and it cut the learning curve down tremendously.

    DS
  • haphazard72 wrote Over a month ago
    In the training workshop I facilitatd in KL last week, I introduced the team to the elevator speech. They hadn't heard of it but loved it as their intro and hook for future training sessions.

    It definitely takes some practice, but well worth it....
  • wrote Over a month ago
    This is a fun thread. I love the elevator pitch model because it is so versatile.

    I have used this format when conducting train-the-trainer sessions. I find that many of my trainers have a hard time easily coomunicating the WIFL ("what in it for the Learner") statements and gaining initial buy-in; espically with some of the more tenured employees.

    I have them write an elevator speech for their classes to use as a way to introduce the importance of the class and initiate discussion (using an open ended question) or obtaining a generalized commitment to proceed (using a closed ended question to get the group to signal agreement and willingness to proceed)

    We also use elevator pitches to "sell" (we are not a revenue center) to other departments to get them to participate if it is relevant to their work.

    I have also used the format for icebreakers (in which participants write one about themselves and either present it to the group or we draw one out of a bucket and people try to guess)

    It's a great format for presenting a compact and persuasive message.
  • GoldenBoy wrote Over a month ago
    I agree that the pitch should be practiced at every opportunity, but admit I had not thought of trying it out in clubs or maybe fitness centres?

    We encourage our clients to practice in the mirror, with friends and/or family, when they are video-chatting (Skype etc.)... virtually at any opportunity.

    Anyone else have other ideas? (I like this thread - it's giving me great ideas for my next group of students!)

    TTFN
    GB
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Hi everyone,
    Just thought I'd share an update with you ... that I've had lots of practice with my elevator speech now!!!

    I've recently been away for a week and met lots of new people from all over the world and from all different professions. Of course, the question 'what do you do?' came up with practically everyone I met. Although I did not have 'one' elevator pitch that I reeled off word for word the same every time, I did say a 'variation' of the basic elevator pitch.

    So, it got me thinking ... perhaps it's a good thing to seek out opportunities where you will be meeting lots of new people (at a networking meeting, going to a new club that you are interested in joining or even on holiday) to put into practice your elevator pitch before you want to use it for work purposes.

    What do others think of this idea ... of going out purposefully to practice it?

    Midgie

    ps. GoldenBoy, even though I am not a football fan, England's defeat was almost to be expected! They always cave in at the last minute and it's definitely a mind thing!!
  • GoldenBoy wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Yolande,

    Nice to 'hear' you too

    The other advantage with this form of prepared conversation is, with our clients not all speaking English as a first language, we found that this also helps them overcome the fear of speaking to a stranger (employer).

    They often feel embarrassed about their English abilities, and practicing something until it's perfect helps them 'break the ice' with employers. Employers are also much more forgiving of any subsequent errors once they have heard their speeches (that's feedback from our clients, not just from me).

    It is definitely a great and, as you say Yolande, versatile tool.

    TTFN
    GB

    p.s. I'm so sad that England is out of the UEFA Euro Championship
  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    Hi GB

    Nice 'hearing' your voice again. I like the versatility you add to the elevator speech when you said the following:

    they can use their speeches for prospecting, while networking, at interviews, over the phone..
    If something works well in one area, chances are that it will also work well in another area...so we may just as well use it to our best advantage!

    Kind regards
    Yolandé
  • GoldenBoy wrote Over a month ago
    Aaawwwww Midgie.... I can't imagine how you must have felt, but thanks for sharing.

    Another use our organisation has found for the elevator speech is for our clients to introduce themselves to potential employers.

    (For those of you not familiar with what our organisation does, we provide employability training and services to new immigrant clients.)

    One of the questions that employers always seem to ask is, "Tell me a little about yourself." Before preparing their elevator speeches, we find our clients tend to talk about what they are, rather than who they are. We teach them the importance of using this opportunity to talk about their fit as a potential employee.

    Once completed, they can use their speeches for prospecting, while networking, at interviews, over the phone... pretty much in any situation where they find a potential employer. It builds their confidence, and helps to bring them out of their shells when they need it most.

    TTFN
    GB
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Just thought I'd share with you an experience I had just last week which reminds me the need to review, and dust off, your elevator speech.

    I have worked on my elevator speech several times over the years and have been pleased with it ... however, I was caught out!

    I haven't had an opportunity to use my elevator speech lately so it was somewhat dusty and unused! When I went to the training session last week I was feeling rushed and distracted, and I stumbled through my introduction of who I was and what I did.

    I did OK, but just OK. I know that the impact I could have had could have been so much greater had I just dusted off my elevator speech and reminded myself of the elegantly crafted message I know I can deliver, along with a question as food for thought to plant seeds for potential opportunities.

    So, just thought I'd pass on the reminder to review your elevator speech - whether you are a small business or someone looking for work - because you never know when you might use it!

    Midgie
    (feeling quite red-faced about my own reminder!!)
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