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What is an elevator pitch?

Imagine you’re in an elevator. Someone you admire walks in and stands next to you. Perhaps it’s the CEO of a company that could help yours. Your goal is to tell them about yourself in the time it would take to get to the top floor– usually 30 - 60 seconds. Within this time frame, your aim is to make a good impression and possibly a connection.

Elevator Pitch Examples

If you don’t have your “pitch” ready, you might miss out on a lucrative project or business opportunity.

Your pitch isn’t just for social gatherings or networking events. You’ll also need it when you are cold-calling a business prospect; perhaps somebody who might be a very busy person.

Coming up with an effective and compelling pitch is certainly not an easy task. It isn’t easy to explain what you do in a few seconds, to somebody you just met. However, there are techniques you can learn to hone your message.

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Your essential information

An elevator pitch is simply a clear statement that describes:

What do you do?

This basic question forces you to have clarity. You need to succinctly state what you do for a living and work out how to communicate this information to your audience.


Example: “The graphic designs I create for my clients’ products have been guaranteed to increase brand recall by a third. This increases the chance of people purchasing the products when shopping for them in a crowded marketplace.”

How do you help others?

This is the most important question. It’s great to know what you do - but also consider how it can help the person in question.


Example: “My company, Zed Studio, is a design consultancy and manufacturer. We specialise in interactive and illuminating point-of-sale advertising displays at a reasonable cost. You might be able to use us when you fit out your latest retail shop.”

What makes you different?

Consider the question, “why should people care what I do?” What makes you special? Think of transferrable skills, too, for example, if you grew up in a family of food lovers, maybe it would make you a great assistant Maître d in a restaurant.


Example: “We combine leading technologies with creative intelligence that results in point of sale displays unlike any other on the market. Whether it’s a custom built shop window or a retro fitted product stand, we create the ‘wow’ factor with every design to ensure that our clients’ products stand out against all their competition.”

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Essentials of a perfect elevator pitch

It must be concise

An elevator pitch must not beat around the bush. It should come straight to the point.


Because you have only a few seconds to work with, you don’t want the other person’s eyes to glaze over! Say what you need to say quickly - it should be no longer than 30-60 seconds.

All your points are clear

Your aim is not to impress the person you’re talking to but to express what you do in a concise way that makes sense. Use words that everybody can understand, especially if you do something that is a little hard to understand. Stay away from jargon; clarity is essential to make sure the person you are speaking to walks away with a strong impression of you.

Targeted

Think about the needs of the person you are speaking with. Your elevator pitch will vary depending whether the other person is a CEO or office all-rounder. Having the right approach dependant on the mood and time of day is also important. Start off with a sentence that leads to your objective – making a connection.


Example of a website designer meeting an owner of a local musical organisation:
“One of my clients, the Metro West Symphony, recently came to me because their old website held dynamic data about their rehearsal and concert schedules, and they needed their website designer to make the updates every time the schedule changed. I created a new website for them and now the board members can make these changes themselves. This saves them both time and money.”

Focused

Always keep your objectives in mind. What are you trying to achieve by having this conversation? Every message should have one clear objective, although you don’t always have to state it to the person you are speaking with.

Creates a visual effect

Try to use words that will tell the other person a story that will help them visualise. Use vivid imagery and touch their hearts.

Example:
Instead of saying you are a “just a copywriter”, say (for example) that, “you create content on mainstream businesses sites that allow your clients to effectively communicate what their products do to commercial audiences.”

Your pitch should hook your audience in

You don’t have a long time so you can’t tell people everything you want to say. Prompt the other person to ask questions to get the conversation going.

The hook is a statement used specifically to get attention. Use your hook as the first sentence in your message, making it about your objective, your listener, and your approach. It can be a dramatic or humorous statement, or a personal anecdote. It can also be a question that you answer straightaway.

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How to write the perfect elevator pitch

To practise, write down what you do in an array of different ways. Don’t edit your work now but let your imagination run wild. Come up with as many variations as you can.

Write down what you do in an array of different ways. Don’t edit your work now, but let your imagination run wild. Come up with as many variations as you can.

Write down what makes you different from other people who are selling the same thing or working in the same profession. Do you have advanced qualifications? Do you have more experience working in that area? Are you so passionate about it that you do a lot of pro bono work?

Make a list of your strengths. Don’t forget interpersonal skills you may possess such as being a team player, dependable, punctual, confident or a strong communicator. These skills will help you connect.

Also, write down what your current objectives are. Are you looking for a job or perhaps to relocate to another city? Are you in the midst of a career transition? Are you looking for some advice or mentorship? Keep it fresh.

Remember, there are 4Ws and 1H in your elevator pitch:

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Remember, the spotlight is on you

The way you say something matters just as much as what you say:

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Smile

Smile, look the other person in the eye and offer a firm handshake. This inspires confidence and understanding, and establishes sincerity. It creates a great first impression.
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Body Language

Send powerful signals through your body language: Watch your posture. This tells the other person that you are truly interested in talking to them, and shows that you are being truthful, not defensive.
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Expressions

Your facial expressions: show you are interested and excited to talk to the person you are speaking with. Be prepared, spontaneous and caring. Speak with an animated voice.
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