Level 1 Please! A Painless Guide to Elevator Pitching

Nov 19, 2019

An elevator pitch is a succinct, persuasive spiel used to introduce yourself, a product or company and what it does. Its purpose is to explain the concept quickly and clearly to spark interest in who you are and what you do. Elevator pitches should be roughly 30 seconds long and can come in handy in many different situations, from casual conversations to interviews and beyond. 

elevator pitch

When you stop thinking about elevator ‘pitching’ and start thinking of it as ‘sharing’ or ‘educating,’ you can turn the pitch into something much more useful: a conversation.

Being in the venture capital game, we’ve heard a TON of elevator pitches over the years. Some were great, hence our remarkable list of portfolio companies and some… didn’t leave a lasting impression. We’ve put together a few tips and tricks that we learned over the years for crafting a killer elevator pitch that’ll really pay off.

Ingredients for crafting a crazy-good EP

Solid elevator pitches can be built on a standard foundation:

  1. Identify the goal

  2. Explain what you do/what your organization does

  3. Establish your unique selling proposition (USP)

  4. Engage your audience 

  5. Put it all together

Regardless of your objective, the techniques for drafting a successful elevator pitch run in the same vein so you can use these tips again and again. Below is a more in-depth look at what each of these steps could look like.

Identifying the goal

Prior to drafting your pitch, consider your objective. Are you promoting your organization, pitching an idea or looking for a new job? You will also want to consider who your target audience is, what problems they have and how you, your product or your service can fix it. If you can literally visualize yourself having a normal conversation with someone in an elevator, the pitch drafting process becomes much easier. Think about why you’re having the conversation and what you need to say to get your point across. What would stand out the most to you if you were on the listening end?

Start with a blank piece of paper and number it from one to 10. Then, fill in important bits of information you want to convey. Focus on the most interesting or memorable facts, the ones that really make you shine, and practice weaving those bits into a 20-40 second speech. Remember, you can continue the conversation once you step off the elevator. Don’t get too tripped up over the time “limit.”

Not every introductory conversation will be the same, which is why it’s important to remember that your elevator pitch is just that—yours. Thinking about having a conversation is much less daunting than having to follow a strict script. Just be ready with your library of nuggets so you feel prepared to tailor the conversation to any situation.

Who are you, what do you do and why do I care?

Isn’t that often the most intimidating question in an interview? You’re sweating in your seat, hands clammy— and then you get hit with the infamous banger, “So, tell me about yourself!” 

The objective during this stage of the pitch drafting process is to turn your listener from someone asking basic questions like “What do you do?” out of sheer politeness, into someone who is truly an engaged listener. Be persuasive, be compelling but steer away from anything that sounds too self-centered, too complicated or uses unnecessary business jargon and meaningless buzzwords. Here are a few examples of how to craft a response that doesn’t make eyes roll or jaws clench:

“I write marketing materials for healthcare companies. I was a director-level marketing professional for eight years. And I decided to take that knowledge and expertise to do what I do best—write engaging marketing messages. Essentially, I work with clients to explain the value of their products to potential customers.”

“I help software companies write marketing materials. I spent 11 years in sales writing my own sales materials in order to make and exceed sales quotas. I eventually decided to do this on my own and help other companies do the same.”

“As an account executive for AnswerASAP, I talk to hundreds of marketers per month. And 99% of them hate creating reports. It’s time-consuming, it’s tedious, and it’s usually not your highest priority. That’s where our tool comes in — it pulls from all of your data to create any report you want in less than the time it takes to pour a cup of coffee.”

  • Be careful using numbers/statistics in your pitch, as they can sound robotic

“I’m Shannon Prince from DroneClip. We offer hands-free shears for frugal ranchers. We have T-shirts for sale so you can show your love for Alpacas and impress people with this fun new technology.”

Establishing your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

In this step, you will identify what makes you, your organization or your idea, unique. This step will depend on what you’re crafting the pitch for but regardless of purpose, you must know how to make yourself stand out. What sets you apart from the hundreds of other people who are pitching ideas (or themselves) every single day? 

Your USP could be geared toward a new job opportunity, an internship, to gain contact information or simply to put yourself out there with someone new. This is a good opportunity to explain your value, the value of your organization, why you’re a good fit for a job or generally what your audience can gain from your interaction. What are the guts of your offer?

Points to consider:

  • What would happen if our product, project or feature didn’t exist? What do we do that others don’t?

  • What would we (the organization) lose without this product, project or feature?

  • Who would suffer or be affected? Who are our users or customers?

  • What would fall apart if I wasn’t around to do my job? Because you are that important.

Engaging the audience

Be sure to ask questions throughout the pitch but more importantly, plan for counter questions. Spark your audience’s curiosity and pull the conversation back in your control by being extremely, impressively prepared for any question thrown your way. 

Have a business card on hand at all times. Who does that? You! You’re “the guy with the business cards.” How many times have you had an interesting conversation with someone and later wished you had their name or email to ask further questions? Business cards are also engaging because they WILL be seen again. We all check our pants pockets before throwing them into the washer… right?

Remember, EPs are SUCCINCT, persuasive and informative. It’s easy to cross the line from engaging to, well, annoying/pushy when it comes to talking about something you’re passionate about. Try not to ramble.

Tie a bow on it

Practice, practice, practice…but not too much.

The next time you’re in an elevator, practice your pitch. Talk to yourself! We all do it, we all know we do it, now use this funny habit to your advantage. Don’t ride elevators very often? You can also practice in front of a mirror but it’s more fun to try it in an elevator because, well, you know. 

Another option is to record yourself and listen back to identify areas of improvement, just keep in mind that practicing too much could lead to your elevator pitch sounding too rigid or rehearsed. No need to sound like a robot. You’re your favorite person, so spend some time making sure you actually like and believe what you’re saying. And ensure that you sound good saying it.

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