Elevator pitches are short, succinct, and highly persuasive speeches about a business opportunity.
The term comes from the presentation’s target length of thirty to sixty seconds—the length of time it takes to complete an elevator ride.
The short, punchy nature of these verbal presentations make them ideal networking tools to spread the word about any number of opportunities.
Use an elevator pitch to present...
- Your new venture or existing business to potential investors, partners, or vendors.
- New products or services to prospects, leads, and customers.
- New projects to potential stakeholders both within and outside of an organization.
- Your strengths as an employee to potential employers.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll be looking at constructing the perfect elevator pitch for entrepreneurs.
In some settings, you may hear an elevator pitch referred to as an elevator speech. The terms can be used interchangeably; however, when we discuss a “pitch” it is implied that the presentation will end with a call to action.
Let’s take a look at eleven best practices to help make your elevator pitch a persuasive powerhouse.
Building the Perfect Elevator Pitch
1. Start with a Goal
What is the goal of your elevator pitch?
Are you trying to inspire potential investors? Woo potential customers?
Build a relationship with a new supplier or distributor?
Start with a goal to add some structure to your development process.
2. Keep It Brief
Focus on the important stuff and don’t simply speak faster to try to jam in more details.
The secret is speaking smarter, not faster.
3. Keep It Simple
Tailor your elevator pitch to your audience. Don’t use industry jargon and don’t get long-winded.
Focus on the most important aspects and respect your audience’s time.
4. Don’t Ramble
Say what you need to say, but don’t ramble.
Keep a couple of stock questions on the tip of your tongue for times when you are unsure of what to say next.
“How does your organization currently solve this kind of problem?”
“Have you thought about different solutions to this problem before?”
“Does [my solution to the problem] make sense?”
5. Keep Your Body Language in Check
Beyond crafting the perfect elevator pitch, monitoring your body language and facial expressions is an important part of general communication, presentation, and networking skills.
This means that when delivering your elevator pitch, keep an inviting and open posture.
No frowning, no crossed arms, no hands on your hips.
6. Say No to the Monotone
When delivering your elevator pitch, say no to the monotone.
It can be easy to fall into a monotonous pattern when reciting material from memory, and that is the last thing that you—or your audience—wants.
Even the best pitch that is delivered in a droning and non-engaging way will fall flat.
7. Practice (But Don’t Memorize)
If you want your pitch to sound natural, it’s important to practice.
Practicing helps you avoid the stumbles, stammers, and false starts that erode your credibility and your confidence.
Keep in mind, though, practicing is not the same thing as memorizing.
Memorizing your pitch reduces your flexibility when presenting and can lead to your delivery sounding canned and impersonal.
Practice your elevator pitch, but don’t memorize one specific delivery.
You will be tailoring your pitch to your audience, so relying on a single memorized pitch as a crutch will be more harmful than helpful.
8. Practice Multiple Pitches
Your pitch will be most effective when it speaks directly to your audience.
Develop multiple pitches with different audiences in mind. Think back to the goal of your elevator pitch.
If your objective is to connect with new vendors, suppliers, or distributors, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t make the same level of quality connection with each of those audiences; the answer is to craft a pitch that speaks to each one individually.
9. Workshop with a Friend
Deputize a friend or colleague who will be honest with you.
Bounce ideas off them, try out different pitches, and consider their feedback.
Alternatively, you can record yourself delivering the variations of your pitch.
10. Remember to Highlight Value
The value you provide takes the form of a problem you solve for your target market and the unique and competitive way in which you do so.
This doesn’t have to be long or complicated. In fact, as part of your elevator pitch it shouldn’t be.
It can be as simple as a single sentence.
We help [target market] achieve [solution to problem].
In fact, some of the most iconic contemporary brands can be summed up in this way.
Facebook: We help individuals stay connected and share experiences online.
Amazon: We help people buy and sell things online.
Uber: We help people get where they are going with a simple ride-sharing app.
11. Don’t Forget the CTA
What action would you like your audience to take after hearing your pitch?
Will you be exchanging email addresses?
Should they stop in to your office or storefront?
Are you leaving them with a networking card or other leave-behind?
Without giving your audience an assignment, you can’t expect action on their part.
A word of caution, however: don’t burden your audience.
Your “ask” has to be realistic.
To secure the best results, the action you ask your audience to perform should require as minimal a commitment as possible.
The Bottom Line
Almost every networking activity is essentially a sales pitch.
Your elevator pitch is no different.
It is often said that we only have one chance to make a first impression.
By starting with a goal, focusing on persuasion and succinctness, and practicing but not memorizing your pitch (along with the nine other best practices presented in this post), you can craft an elevator pitch that builds your confidence, gets the word out, and gets results.
Benjamin Sweeney is the Senior Business Writer for ClydeBank Media who specializes in the wide and wonderful world of business and process optimization. He has an appetite for waste reduction and an eye for efficiency. He has authored two titles on the subject of Lean manufacturing, both available from ClydeBank Media.