How to Give an Elevator Pitch

September 25, 2017 - DOM BARNARD

If you’re in business, chances are you’ve been told that you need an elevator pitch when you go to networking events or introduce what you do. And maybe you’ve even put something together for your pitch and tried it out at a few events.

However, the perfect elevator pitch can take a lot of effort to get right. Read on for our best tips and tricks to put together your pitch and concisely deliver it whenever you need to.

What is an elevator pitch?

When you go to an event, and someone asks you the standard question “What do you do?”, your elevator pitch is what you use to answer that question.

It’s a short (less than 60 seconds) statement answering that question, but, more importantly, answering the question they haven't asked and is likely in the back of their mind - “What’s in it for me?”

The idea of a pitch is to intrigue your listener and create interest, whether you’re simply chatting at a networking event or looking to gain investment.

The name comes from the idea that your pitch should be no longer than the time it takes to ride an elevator.

What is an elevator pitch?

Advantages of using an elevator pitch

If you’ve ever been nervous at a networking event and wondered what to say, or how to start a conversation, here’s your answer.

A practised pitch builds your confidence and reduces your nerves, because you already know what to say, and you don’t have that awkward pause while you figure out how to introduce yourself.

You sound professional, you’re less likely to stumble with your words and you put your best foot forward with new contacts.

When to use an elevator pitch

A good pitch isn’t just for networking events and exhibitions. You can use a pitch to catch the attention of investors, to build their interest in you and your product or service.

If you have a new product or service, you’ll probably create a sales page with all the details, but you could use your elevator pitch for the description on your Facebook page, your Twitter bio, and even your email signature. In fact, anywhere online where you need a short, snappy intro to what you do, or what you are selling.

Book authors, for example, are often told to write a short bio and a long bio, so readers can be drawn in by the short bio, and read the long bio if they want to know more. Your elevator pitch is perfect for the short bio.

If you work for someone else, you could write a pitch to sell an innovative, new idea to the directors or the CEO. If you manage a team, an elevator pitch can help to sell them on a new initiative you want to introduce.

You might also find an elevator pitch useful if you’re attending a job interview. It could settle your nerves to have something ready to say to answer that standard question: “Tell me about yourself.”

You never know who you might meet, or who they might know. You might be chatting with your hairdresser, playing golf, shopping, or taking part in any number of activities that aren’t standard business events, and when someone asks you what you do, you’re ready to go with your polished and professional pitch.

You might find you want to create different pitches for different situations, as what you would say to a potential investor is very different from what you would say to someone visiting your stand at an exhibition.

No matter what you use it for, the whole idea is to engage the attention of your audience, and get them to want to know more.

Creating an elevator pitch

While an elevator pitch sounds great, you can’t just say “I do X,” and leave it at that.

Terrible examples of an elevator pitch:

  • I’m a freelance writer, or an accountant or… the list goes on. There’s no intrigue in that, and no need to ask questions. People will quite happily assume what you do, decide they don’t need it and move on.
  • I’m looking for people who want what I’m selling. Who? What people? Who is your target market? Be specific.
  • The ‘It’s all about Me, and What I Want to Sell You’ pitch that goes on for a good half an hour. Don’t do that. Yes, you want to sell your business, but you need to sell yourself first by building genuine relationships, and listening at least as much as you talk. Read more about active listening skills.

So, how do you get your pitch right?

  • Before you write a word, identify your goal for the pitch, and your ideal audience. Now you know what you want to achieve and who you are looking for. Marketing to everyone is never a good idea. No business out there has a target market of ‘everyone’.
  • Clearly explain what you do, but more importantly, answer ‘what’s in it for me?’ and give your audience a reason to care and to be intrigued.
  • Work out your Unique Selling Point (USP) if you haven’t already, and incorporate it into your pitch.
  • Finally, ask a question at the end, to engage your listener and start the conversation going.

Top tip: Don’t be so focused on delivering your perfect pitch that you forget to listen to the other person.

That’s the general format, but to really add to your pitch, think about the problems your target market has that you can solve. Draw attention to one of those problems and present how you can solve that, and you’ll have people intrigued.

If you have eye-opening and interesting statistics that really demonstrate the advantages of working with you, why not include one or two?

People love social proof, so if you’ve worked for a large, well-known company or a celebrity, and you can talk about it, then mention it.

If you’re talking to your ideal customer and you’ve worked for their direct competitor, you can bet they want to hear about it.

Have a clear call to action, stating what you want, and what you want your audience to do next.

What you’re looking for with your pitch is what sets you apart, what’s fascinating about you and your company, and what will really hook people in to want to know more.

How to Give an Elevator Pitch

Your elevator pitch template

If you’re struggling with your pitch, then try working through our template below:

Elevator pitch template

I solve __________ problem for __________ target market, by __________, which brings them __________ benefit. Unlike our competitors, we __________ (insert your USP), because _________ (add what advantage that gives your customer). So, how does your company handle __________ (what you do or sell)?

Obviously, once you’ve got the answers down, you’ll want to reword that so it sounds natural to you, and is written in your voice, so you can deliver it well, without tripping over what you have to say.

Here’s an example to follow:

I create compelling content for engineering companies, by understanding their work and translating it to plain English, so their customers know exactly what they are getting, and they make more sales.

Unlike my competitors, I spend time with the company and meet the engineers, because that enables me to write more focused content, which attracts their ideal customers to their website.

So, how does your company handle customer outreach and conversion?

Practice - where, how and when

When you look at your pitch written down, it can seem like such a long statement, and a mouthful to actually say. Not to mention the possibility that if you haven’t said it before, you could easily forget parts of it, and lose the flow of what you are saying.

The cure for all of these worries is practice.

  • Spend time reading and re-reading your pitch until you are happy with it, you’re sure it says what it needs to say, and doesn’t have anything that doesn’t need to be there. Make sure it’s written the way you naturally speak.
  • Use virtual reality (VR) to practice in a realistic environment and receive instant feedback on your speech.
  • Then read it until you’re sure you can remember all of it.
  • Stand in front of the mirror, and practice saying your elevator pitch over and over again. You might feel silly at first, but you will start to feel more confident about saying the words.
  • Think about how you deliver your pitch. How can you put it across so that you sound passionate and engaged yourself? You shouldn’t sound like you’re delivering it by rote, or that you’re reading it off the back of your hand. If you don’t sound interested in what you’re saying, you can’t expect your audience to be intrigued either.
  • When you’re sure you have your pitch down, look at your body language. If you’re all hunched over, or stiff and tense, you won’t come across well to an audience, and you’ll appear under-confident.
  • Relax your knees and your shoulders, stand with your feet at shoulder width apart, and relax.
  • Think about your voice. Does it come across as confident and powerful, or shaky and nervous? Record yourself and see how you sound. Then try breathing deeper and speaking from your diaphragm, to sound more confident.
  • Once you’re happy with the basics, get a few colleagues or friends together and practice your speech in front of them. You’ll get used to saying it to other people, and your friends will give you feedback about what works and what doesn’t.
  • The next step is to work on answering any questions that your audience might have once you’ve finished your pitch. Write down what you might get asked, and ask your colleagues to think up questions, too, then practice answering those questions with your colleagues or friends until you are completely confident.

Whatever you use your elevator pitch for, as long as it’s interesting, clearly states the benefits for your audience, and is well-practiced and delivered smoothly, you should now be able to more easily start conversations with people and get better results from your networking.