Is an Elevator Pitch a Good Idea?

This article was originally posted on Nov 10, 2013, and has been updated


When I first started located, I was always asked to give a quick pitch on what Located did.  And I bloody floundered all over the place with it.  Depending on the way I framed it, people's eyes would either glaze over, or they would immediately start asking lots of questions.  And I found that having a nice concise way to describe what I did meant more business.  In short, I need an elevator pitch, and I needed multiple versions of it.

The idea of the elevator pitch comes from being able to pitch an idea in the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator.  Now, we can use an elevator pitch anywhere, as long as the pitch itself is still short.  It should take less than a minute, and your goal is really to engage the listener.  You want the listener to ask you questions, and to be interested in what you have to say.


Here’s a quick look at some ground rules for crafting a solid elevator pitch:

  • Keep it short

  • No jargon or buzzwords

  • Use humor

  • Get confirm they are interested, then share details

They say brevity is the soul of wit.  It's also the body of an elevator pitch.  Get your idea across in a unique way using as few words as possible.  Limit the length to four or five sentences.  You want to have an opener, your pitch, and your closer.


Remember, no jargon or buzzwords.  I can't emphasize this enough.  If you open your mouth and words like synergy, dynamic, and game-changer come out of it, you can be sure the person listening is thinking about how to get away from you.  Stick with the vocabulary you'd use in front of your parents or grandparents.  You want to create a meaningful impression, not sound like you stepped off a company's website (I feel a slight twinge of irony typing those words for a blog, on my company's website).


Humor, oh em gee, yes, make the person laugh!  Frame what you do in a unique way.  Regardless of what you do.  You work in advertising sales?  Congrats, you "sell excitement and engagement."  You're a management consultant?  Look at you, you "help people build their business muscles."  The point here is to get creative about describing what you do.  BUT STAY AUTHENTIC! Nothing will be more of a turn off that something that sounds manufactured.


If you grabbed their attention with the funny opener, hit them with more details.  This is where a statistic, fact, or a success story.  If we follow the ad tech example from above you can say something like, “I connect brands with engaged audiences.  My clients usually see a 60% lift in the brand engagement after I work with them.”  Once again, don't lie, and don't exagerate.  


Your goal is to hint at the details to keep the listener asking questions.  You want to speak plainly and clearly, but you want them to be engaged and asking more questions.  If they ask you “what do you mean by…?” or “does that mean that…?” you are on the right track.   


You immediately want to ask if they have more time, and if not, when you can follow up with them to share more information.  If you are in a position to chat more ask if they can grab a coffee with you, or if you can walk with them for a little bit.  If you are out at an event, or if they are on their way to a meeting, ask for a business card and a time to call them.  You should always try to call them instead of sending an email, and as soon as possible.  You don’t want the impact of your conversation to fade away before you have a chance to follow up with them.


Ultimately that is the purpose of an elevator pitch, creating genuine interest, and to get more time to really sit down and speak with your listener.  You want to turn these chance encounters into meetings.  Whether you are trying to move your product, looking for investors, or simply trying to expand your network.  Creating a powerful first impression will put you on a short list of people who stand out in a crowd, and you’re more likely to be remembered long after the event is over.


In closing, remember that luck is simply when opportunity meets preparedness.