As an entrepreneur, you will need to be prepared to take every opportunity to gain interest in your start-up from potential customers, investors, or associates. Important contacts can be made in many situations: during formal meetings, at networking events, or during chance encounters. An elevator pitch is a short, concise speech that should deliver the essential points to make people interested and motivated to support, invest, or become one of your future clients. This factsheet leads you through the process of creating and fine-tuning a winning elevator pitch that can be adapted to any situation and with any audience.
An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that you use to spark interest in your start-up. A good elevator pitch should be as short as possible — roughly the length of an elevator ride (hence the name!). Elevator pitches should be interesting, memorable and succinct, and need to explain what makes you or your organization, product or idea unique.
You can use an elevator pitch in many situations: during formal meetings, at networking events, or during chance encounters. Your elevator pitch can also be used for different objectives, such as pitching products and services to clients, introducing your organisation to potential clients or customers, or even selling a new idea or initiative to other members in your organisation. Keep your intended audience and objective in mind throughout the process of developing your elevator pitch, as these will determine the content and style of your pitch.
Creating an Elevator Pitch
1. Identify Your Goal
What is the objective of your pitch? Do you want to tell potential clients about your organization? Do you have a new idea that you want to pitch to other members of your organisation? Your goal will change depending on your audience and what the context of your meeting is, so alter your pitch accordingly.
2. Introduce Yourself
If you’re meeting someone for the first time, the first thing you should do is introduce yourself! Give your name and a few other details that make your listener interested to know more about who you are and what you’re doing. An elevator pitch should sound personal and natural, so don’t forget this key step.
3. Explain What You Do
Your pitch should clearly describe what your organisation does and why. Try to engage your listener’s emotional side by focusing on the problems that you’re solving and how you help people.
4. 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.
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. If your pitch is longer than 2 or 3 minutes, you risk losing the person's interest, or monopolizing the conversation. Your pitch needs to be snappy and compelling. The shorter it is the better!
Like anything else, practice makes it perfect. Without some practice, you’re more likely to make mistakes like talking too fast, sounding unnatural or forgetting important elements of your pitch. Body language is important, and conveys just as much information to the listener as your words do. Practice in front of a mirror or in front of colleagues until the pitch feels natural.
Common Mistakes of Elevator Pitches
- Giving too few/too many details: you want to get your key points across while not overwhelming your audience with details. Give only enough detail to form a compelling argument.
- Being too pushy: Try to speak naturally. Your elevator pitch should sound like a smooth conversation, not an aggressive sales pitch.
- Lack of enthusiasm: Your elevator pitch should excite you first and foremost. After all, if you don't get excited about what you're saying, neither will your audience.
- A disinterested audience: Try to be as engaging as possible. This means being careful not to take too much time or monopolise the conversation. Be in tune to how your audience is responding to you. One way to engage your listener is to ask open-ended questions to involve them in the conversation.
- No follow-up: Try to keep a business card or other take-away item with you, which will help the other person remember you and your message.
This article published by the Harvard Business Review gives some important pointers when it comes to talking style and being convincing with your elevator pitch, accompanied by an examples of both an ineffective and an effective elevator pitch.MARTIN, S.W. (2012): Win the Business With This Elevator Pitch. Cambridge: Harvard Business Review URL [Accessed: 14.01.2013]