Crafting a great elevator pitch

Your elevator pitch may be your best opportunity to pitch a great idea to a senior decision maker. After all:

  • You have the decision maker’s undivided attention,
  • They can feel your excitement,
  • You literally have no time to meander or get sidetracked.

Unfortunately, most of us blow it because our nerves render us unable to string a sentence together, make us jabber like an auctioneer, or have us blurt out whatever comes to mind in a disconnected mess.

The result is always the same. A massive missed business opportunity.

A great elevator pitch is a great business tool

An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech. You can use it to create interest in a project, idea or product – or your personal brand. It should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds (hence the name).

The reason it’s a great business tool is that it encapsulates the essence of your idea. Once you’ve edited down your idea for the elevator pitch, you also have an idea you can use on your website, in social media, as your introduction when you’re delivering a presentation.

Creating an elevator pitch

The shorter the pitch, the longer it takes to get right. That’s because the preparation necessitates eliminating everything but the essential. Once you get to five or six ‘critical’ talking points, it becomes difficult to gauge which one gets tossed out.

To make matters even more challenging, you need to prep different pitches based on your audience. That said, a few fundamentals always apply.

Identify your goal

Every pitch needs an objective. Do you want to tell potential clients about your organization? Pitch a new product to a big retailer? Explain what you do for a living? Or convince your boss your idea is the right one to invest in? Without an objective, it becomes impossible to decide which points make the cut, and which end up on the editing room floor.

Explain what you do

Under duress, many of us forget that our audience has no idea who we are or why we’re talking to them.

It’s important that your self-descriptor be more than a straight-up bio. It needs to seed the thought that what you do may be very advantageous to the person listening to you.

If you’re thinking that explaining what you do isn’t necessary if you’re pitching internally, think again. Mentioning to your boss that you’re the person who developed a great idea after studying the target market for a year necessary will definitely shift the odds in your favour.

Key to explaining what you do effectively is asking yourself: what do you want your audience to remember most about you?

Communicate your USP

Your elevator pitch needs to describe the product, service or idea you’re selling. But just as important, it needs to communicate the unique selling proposition of that product, service or idea.

A USP is what makes you, your organization, or your idea unique. Once you briefly describe what you’re selling, you need to communicate your USP in order to convince your listener that you aren’t describing something run of the mill.

Frame with a question

The best pitches frame the solution in context of a problem. If you’re pitching an idea, it’s highly advantageous to hear from your audience if they have a pain point that requires it.

Added benefit: engaging your audience with a question ensures they don’t tune out, and buys you valuable time to calm down and frame your pitch based on their answer.

Put it all together

It’s time to start storyboarding your pitch.

Write down each section of your pitch on multiple post-it notes. Hang them on the wall. Then arrange the sections until you’re telling a story that feels natural.

The post-it note storyboard also enables you to easily cut out anything that doesn’t absolutely need to be there. The shorter, the better!


Remember, how you communicate is just as important as what you say. Talk too fast, and you’ll sound desperate. Forget bits, and you’ll appear clueless. Tell lame jokes or anecdotes, and you’ll simply be off-putting.

Set a goal to practice your pitch regularly. The more you practice, the more natural your pitch will become. If you can do your pitch in your sleep, no sudden distraction in the pitch setting will fluster you. You’ll look like a cool, calm, confident professional.

If your pitch becomes second nature, you’re also able to adapt on the fly to different pitch scenarios. If the CEO is joined by the CFO in the elevator, you’ll be able to shift gears without breaking a sweat.

Get a head start

I’ve been pitching my entire career. As an advertising creative director, I pitched ad ideas every day. As a brand consultant, I help entrepreneurs turn complex propositions into potent propositions and pitches.

Based on my experiences, I developed the 3 Minute Pitch, a guidebook and course you might find useful.

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