An elevator pitch is a short and succinct, persuasive speech used to generate interest and summarize or provide a simple explanation of a process, product, service, organization, or event and its value. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds (hence the name) and it should be engaging and memorable.
Let’s say you are at the airport and you just so happen to bump into an executive from your company. You have seen each other around the office and attended a few meetings together but have never engaged in a real conversation. You have this great idea on how to improve, streamline and make a particular process more efficient but your immediate supervisor has brushed your suggestions aside.
Here’s your chance. You are face-to-face with an actual decision-maker and his flight is starting to board…what do you say?
Situations like this are what the elevator speech remedies. It’s for those instances when you are caught off guard and have only a moment to make a good impression, explain your position, product or skill set and trigger the other person’s interest. That is A LOT of pressure. That one moment could do one of three things: 1) catapult you to stardom, 2) completely ruin that opportunity or 3) quietly slip away…
Developing Your Elevator Pitch
A solid elevator pitch allows you to distill down to the purest form exactly who you are and what you offering. Think of it as a commercial and you, your product or idea is for sale. You’ve got 30 seconds to market yourself and convince whoever is listening to not only NOT change the channel, but to buy what you’re selling. Here are five simple steps to help you create an engaging pitch:
1. Create a trigger to hook ’em
The quickest and easiest way to create a trigger is by targeting the right emotions. Most people are inherently kind, caring and loving, however, the elevator pitch is about targeting the “what’s in it for me?” attitude that is buried in all of us. Craft your speech in a way that specifically addresses that question. If you can show them a benefit and deliver something that they care about–saving money, saving time, uniqueness, a specific service, fame, fortune, status or power–you will hook them.
For example, if you are a photographer and you happen to be in a bakery behind a couple who just finished cake tasting for their upcoming wedding, you could say:
“Hi, I’m Sharon. I am a professional photographic artist and I would love the opportunity to capture and immortalize that exact moment when your two souls merge into one at your ceremony. I have photographed over 100 weddings in the tri-state area and I am one of the most requested photo artists in this region. I use the Cannon EOS 5D Mark III camera, which is one of the best cameras on the market and I guarantee to deliver stunningly beautiful professional grade photos.
I will arrange all of the shots and I am a master at capturing the most important and intimate moments of your wedding without interrupting the flow. You won’t even know I am there. Here’s my card with my website information, which has some examples of my work and some references. My rates are extremely reasonable and I offer five flexible payment options. Give me a call, I’d love to photograph you two.”
The important triggers (“what can you do for me?”) in this pitch are:
- Sharon’s experience
- She will provide professional photo
- She views her skill as an art
- She is highly recommended
- Reasonable pricing
- Flexible payment plans
2. Describe your product or idea but sell yourself
People don’t buy products; they buy brands. People don’t invest in companies they invest in ideas and other people. Consider Apple’s “Think Different” 2016 ad campaign and their “Here’s to the Crazy Ones, ” commercial. The commercial and entire ad campaign had absolutely nothing to do with computers, technology or software–and Apple was not promoting a new product–yet shortly after that ad campaign launched, Apple’s stock tripled.
People buy Steve Jobs.
The truth is there are hundreds if not thousands of people who do what you do, sell what you sell and offer what you provide. So why should they choose you? Your elevator pitch should answer this question.
Let’s revisit Sharon the photographer’s pitch. Sharon’s “why” is that she likes immortalizing that moment in wedding ceremonies where the two souls become one. She is selling her photography services but you are buying a moment of immortality…
3. Use quantifiers in lieu of empty adjectives
In any sales pitch, quantifying your results is important. When doing this try to avoid using empty adjectives–which are descriptive words that are hard to define or are highly subjective. Words such as: a lot, many, a few, several, good, great, etc., should be used sparingly, if at all. Whenever you can quantify something, you should. Be as direct and specific as possible.
Our friend Sharon told the couple that she had photographed a hundred weddings in her area. She gave them a specific number instead of saying “a lot.” She also told them the specific number of flexible payment plans she offers (five) instead of just saying, “a variety of payment plans.” When you are vague, those you are pitching will leave undecided and undecided quickly turns into NO.
4. Have a call to action
Steve Jobs challenged people to “think different.” It was a unique call to action indirectly tied to his products but it netted him substantial profits. Tell the person(s) you are pitching exactly what it is you want them to do. For Steve Jobs it was think different, Sharon on the other hand, wanted the couple to visit her website and give her a call. Keep it simple and be direct.
5. Be Yourself
This is probably the most important part of your elevator pitch. Authenticity is everything. Being who you are naturally is an automatic trigger for most people. Personalities differ but people respond to those they feel they can trust. If you are fake or come across as over-rehearsed, people will turn off before you even begin pitching them.
Being true to who you genuinely are, helps you to exude confidence. People won’t buy what you are selling if they feel you haven’t even bought it. You have to believe you are the best and most capable solution to their needs. Your confidence will make people feel they need YOU even when they don’t.
Do you really need an Apple computer, iPhone and iPad? You don’t necessarily need those specific products but the brand, concepts and Apple attitude resonates with you and that is what you buy over and over. Just be you.
Below are some sample elevator pitches to help you as you craft your own. Look for evidence of all five aspects we’ve discussed so far. Then try crafting your own.
Sample Elevator Pitches
Martha is seeking an entry-level position in a non-profit organization
“My name is Martha and I’m currently studying education at Howard University. One of my greatest strengths is my ability to make the conceptual practical and I’m interested in securing an entry-level role at a nonprofit that allows me to teach and develop curriculum. Because nonprofit programs and fellowships were a key part of my development, it’s important for me to pay it forward and help students develop to their highest potential.”
Sonia is seeking a job writing for the climate change niche
“I’m Sonia and my core skill sets are civil engineering and psychology. I’m endlessly curious and all my friends, family, and colleagues look to me for answers on everything from mood swings to Minecraft. As I’ve always been exceptionally passionate about social issues, I’m looking to write for publications/websites focused on climate change so that I can create content and campaigns urging others to take action and increase sustainability future generations. Here’s my contact information. If you are interested in collaborating, give me a call.”
Mike is a business lawyer looking for new clients
“Hi, My name is Mike and I’m a business lawyer who specializes in keeping you out of court. I have a broad business practice so let me give you a quick example of what I do. I was working with a guy who originally called me to handle a trademark matter, which we took care of. As I got to know his business, it turned out that his larger issue was that his Ph.D. employees were stealing his ideas and he didn’t have any agreements in place to prevent it. I worked with him to create non-compete and non-disclosure agreements to protect his intellectual property and his business. Think about those things you have questions about and give me a call.”