One learns to categorise so-called elevator pitches into ‘worth considering’ and ‘maybe’ in a matter of a few sentences.
What I enjoy most about journalism is that – in a nutshell – it is a compressed school of communication and human relations. While some people are left uncomfortable from the word ‘socialising’, I feel privileged to have attended at least two hundred events of behalf of Ikon London Magazine last year alone.
Socialising and air kisses aside, two hundred events mean two hundred pitches from brands competing for the spotlight. And, as if this alone is not enough, almost every person at any given event is there to sell their own product and services.
“It’s not surprising that a journalist’s mind learns to filter out only the most interesting conversations, most grandiose and controversial ideas. One learns to categorise so-called elevator pitches into ‘worth considering’ and ‘maybe’ in a matter of a few sentences,” commented celebrity photographer and publisher Joe Alvarez. “The entire success of a brand or a service can often boil down to how succinct and interesting is the pitch of one single person at one event.”
With stakes so high, can you really afford to have a bland elevator pitch?
Think of all the ‘uwearable’ garments parading down the catwalks in fashion shows. Maybe a bit shocking to some, they are created with the one goal and one goal alone, to impress people who have seen it all, according to great Miuccia Prada herself.
There are plenty of ‘social-type’ professionals out there who ‘socialise’ for a living and – at one point or another – they may play a decisive role in your success. The key to success is simple: tailor your elevator pitch with this group of individuals in mind – the ‘influencers’ who can spread the word about you far and wide. And if your elevator pitch carries a strong enough message to impress them, you are guaranteed to leave anyone else talking about you too.
Some brands have been successfully tailoring their message for that category of influencers for decades. Think of all the ‘uwearable’ garments parading down the catwalks in fashion shows. Maybe a bit shocking to some, they are created with the one goal and one goal alone, to impress people who have seen it all, according to great Miuccia Prada herself.
It doesn’t mean that your elevator pitch should be shocking; it means that it has to be memorable.
An Elevator Pitch in Short
An elevator pitch is a succinct, persuasive speech that should spark interest in what you do. On average, a good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds, hence the name.
The elevator pitch should be interesting, memorable, and laconic. We connect with people, not slogans, so it is best if your elevator pitch is full of personality and explains what makes you, your product or idea unique.
Crafting Your Pitch Perfect Elevator Pitch
It can take some time to get your pitch right and the more you practice with real peers the easier it will be to polish your elevator pitch to perfection. Through trials and errors, you will find the one that is compelling and sounds natural in conversation.
But it doesn’t mean that – once polished – your elevator speech is cast in stone. As your vision, ambitions and priorities change, so should the elevator pitch evolve to reflect all these changes. It is also worth considering how you could change your elevator speech depending on your opponents’ interests, industry awareness and values.
Below is the Elevation Pitch Handbook, if you wish, that will guide you through the process of creating pitch-perfect Elevator Pitch.
1. IDENTIFY YOUR GOAL
You will only have one chance to introduce yourself so don’t be making your introduction a long and excruciating life story.
Start by thinking about the objective of your pitch. For instance, do you want to tell potential clients about your organisation or have a great new product idea or want a simple and engaging speech to explain what you do for a living? With the growing popularity of gig-based economy and freelancing, it can be a particularly tricky task. You might want to prioritise and build your pitch around your current outlook or project you are working on at the moment.
One important reminder to ‘jacks of all trades’ – keep it concise and always think about the ‘social type’. I learned the hard way that you will only have one chance to introduce yourself so don’t be making your introduction a long and excruciating life story.
2. WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU DO AND WHAT MAKES YOU AN AUTHORITY IN YOUR FIELD
Start drafting your pitch by describing what you or your organisation does. Focus on the problems that you solve and how you help people.
As to the authority part of the pitch, there will always be someone ahead of you in your field and it is absolutely fine. Accept this fact and move on. Focus on your advantages instead. Whether it is your first-hand experience or in-depth knowledge of certain process – identify it for yourself. Quoting some revealing stats from latest industry research may sometimes help keep your opponent interested.
Note: this is not the stage where you have to edit your ideas. Just write down your visions, values and various facts you find interesting. Keep in mind that your pitch should excite you first; after all, if you don’t get excited about what you’re saying, neither will your audience.
3. WRITE DOWN YOUR UNIQUE SELLING POINTS (USP)
As mentioned before, your elevator pitch needs to communicate your unique selling points or USP. Do you know what they are? Obviously, our business models are somewhat alike to many other businesses, but here you should write down that little bit extra you believe is important. The ‘cherry on top’ if you wish.
List all your unique selling points; the more the better. In the next stage you will need to narrow it down to only a few so use this opportunity to explore all your selling points.
By encouraging severe self-editing we create mini no-go zones of grey areas in our mind. This – in turn – leaves no space for creativity.
I strongly recommend separating the writing and editing processes. Failing to do so, we all fall victim of the Orwellian self-editing. George Orwell coined the word ‘crimestop’ to label the process by which we prevent ourselves from ‘crime-thinking’ – beliefs or thoughts outside of those dictated by the party.
By encouraging severe self-editing we create mini no-go zones for our mind. By rejecting certain thoughts and ideas before they have a chance to evolve, we send a signal to our mind that something is a taboo. Our mind then avoids accessing this part of consciousness at all times, even when this would be productive. This process leaves no space for a long list of creative processes, including creative problem solving and product development. Yes, self-editing is detrimental for creativity.
Now it is time to edit your writing. Here, your main objective is to compress your speech and pick the best points. You can create several pitches with different stats, depending on who you will be pitching. The ones that make people reflect on their own experiences, create emotional responses, and give insightful data should make the largest part of your pitch.
Time your elevator speech. It shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds.
Have a statement opening line, make it stand out from hundreds of other introductions.
Practice makes perfect, so when your Elevator Pitch looks perfect on paper, give it a test. How comfortable you feel with saying it out loud? Does it reflect what you believe about yourself and your business? If it doesn’t, you will have a hard time pitching in real life.
Probably one of the most important elements of the Elevator Pitch is your own personality. We connect with people, not titles on the business cards so make sure you add your own personal touch to the pitch. Bear in mind the ‘social type’: have a statement opening line, make it stand out from hundreds of other introductions. Humour, if it’s your forte, is an excellent way to appear genuine and likeable.
Make sure that you repeat your name and the name of your company at least twice. Oftentimes, people mention their business name only once, or not at all. Repetition is important. That’s why you hear the website address or phone number several times in a radio ad — it helps it sink in.
NLP mind hack for confident delivery
As a qualified NLP master practitioner, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to share one useful and effective ‘mindhack’ that works in many contexts. Not only delivery of the elevator pitch but creating your CV, solving conflicts and much more. Below is the simplified exercise. You can read the full exercise here:
- Once you have considered the situation from your own perspective and explored all options ‘through your own eyes’, step out of this so-called ‘First Position’. Make a step forward and look back at where you stood just a minute ago.
- ‘Break the state’ – think about something else for a moment. What’s your favourite song?
- Now, look at yourself there in ‘First position’ as an observer. Notice everything that you might project to the observer through your body language and your speech. What is your first impression as an observer? Remember that the ‘observer’ in this exercise doesn’t know anything about your successes and failures; they ‘take you for your face value’. What do they see, what do they hear, what might they be saying to themselves, what do they feel? Describe the situation as if you were that other person.
- As an observer, what advice you could give to yourself in this context?
Once you are ready, step back to the ‘First position’ and ‘break the state’ – think about something else for a moment. Can you smell the coffee?
- Based on the insight received during this exercise, what would you like to change in your presentation? What do you feel more comfortable about now? What can you ‘get away with’ and what do you want to be seen as? What can you do differently and what stops you from being your best?
Example of a great elevator pitch
An example of great Elevator Pitch with tonnes of personality from Tim David in Harvard Business Review:
“What do you do?”
“You mean, in addition to being an international bodybuilding champion?” (I’m 5’10” and a buck thirty-five, soaking wet. When I step on ants, they live. It’s painfully obvious that I’m not an international bodybuilding champion.)
Usually, they laugh. Usually, I laugh too. Then I continue…
“Well, you know how email and texting and social media have pretty much taken over how we communicate?”
“We’re more connected than ever, but yet…more disconnected than ever. So I teach managers the secrets of true connection in a way that gets immediate results.”
“How do you do that?” (or “What do you mean?” or “What kind of results?”)
“Well, here’s an example. A company hired me because their management staff wasn’t connecting with their employees. It wasn’t their fault, they’ve just never been taught the right way to do it, right? So I went to their management retreat, taught everyone my 4-part formula, and now morale is up and productivity is up 38%. That’s why I’m constantly on the lookout for managers who don’t know the formula. They’re easy enough to spot. They don’t feel like managers, they feel like babysitters. They say things like, ‘This job would be so easy if it weren’t for the people.’ And they don’t have enough time to deal with all that people stuff and get their own job done so they can make the kind of money they deserve and have the kind of time and lifestyle that they don’t even realise they’ve been missing out on. So when you ask me what I do, I give managers their lives back. Life is too short for two out of every three Americans to hate their jobs. I get the feeling you know people like that, though, right?”
Let me be absolutely clear, you won’t get from rags to riches by purely talking about what you do unless you are getting paid for speaking engagements. However, a memorable elevator pitch will – without doubt – give you a better chance to deliver on your promises.