How to deliver a perfect elevator pitch?
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How to deliver a perfect elevator pitch?

First of all, what the heck is elevator pitch and why do we need to do it?

So, what is an elevator pitch? An elevator pitch is a well-thought, meaningful, and repeatedly practiced brief (about 30-60 seconds long) overview of who you are, what you offer, and how your partner can benefit from it.

An elevator speech is generally a brief introduction of your idea to people who never met you before. But not always, as we deliver elevator speeches every day, in one way or another. Be your listener a prospective employer or just a friend you want to convince to come to the cinema with you. Anyone who wants to sell themselves or the product should have an elevator pitch ready to deliver any time.

It’s important that your pitch draws interest to continue the conversation. This is your chance to turn your listeners into supporters, team members, or even investors. The good news is that a lot depends on you, and the elevator pitch format and opportunities can also be used during a job interview.

Today, I’ll write down all the steps you should take to deliver a perfect elevator pitch.

Also, whether you’re a good and experienced or you’re just starting and seeking for the inspiration and knowledge, check out these best public speaking books currently available.

Where does the term ’elevator pitch’ come from?

There are two main theories about the history of elevator pitch development. The first one dates back to the 1990s, when Michael Caruso, Senior Editor of Vanity Fair, discovered that it was extremely difficult to talk to his boss. The only way to present new ideas was to present them in the elevator. As a result, Michael formulated his ideas briefly and specifically.

Michael’s life partner, Ilene Rosenzweig, used to ask her husband about the ‘elevator pitches’ at the end of the day, hence the term.

Another theory argues, however, that the term actually comes from Philip Crosby’s The Art of Getting Your Own Sweet Way, published in 1981. There’s a paragraph in the second edition that reads, „(…) he suggests that all quality improvement people should have a pre-prepared speech selling the benefits of their new approach… that they could deliver in the elevator if they find themselves unexpectedly in the company of a senior executive for a few floors”.

When do you need an elevator pitch?

You may need an elevator speech at some point in your life, so it’s a really good idea to get prepared today, memorize and practice your pitch as much as possible. Your pitch must sound natural, not memorized. It must be well-prepared so that the listener clearly understands what you’re offering and how it may be useful to them.

You need an elevator pitch to sell yourself to a potential employer, introduce yourself, or sell your idea… which can literally be anything – from the most basic business ideas to rocket science!

Elevator pitch for job interviews

Today, potential candidates are expected to be able to deliver a pitch to sell their skills, experience, and knowledge to a company representative, as well as to prove their potential, motivation, and suitability. It’s vital to differ from competitors, and a well-prepared pitch serves that purpose.

Elevator pitch for employers

Just as a candidate tries to explain to a potential employer why they are the best choice for the job, also the company must be able to convince the candidate they are the best employer.

This is like a brief summary of your company. It tells:

  • what you are offering;
  • what the difference between your and other companies is;
  • why a candidate should choose you.

As people shape their views based on information from different sources, your ability to sell your business is especially important. Therefore, in a situation where your speech is poor, the candidate’s perception of you as an employer will be simply based on other information – if you don’t speak, someone else will.

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Elevator pitch for business plans

Do you have a dream? Is there anything to wish for? Share it with others intelligently! Since you have very little time, think twice about what and how you deliver it.

Let’s be honest, half a minute is a very short time, so you can leave out the entire general story that you would otherwise use. An elevator pitch must grab the listener’s attention and the wish to communicate with you immediately or later.

However, quite often, you’re asked to briefly explain what the main benefit is or what you (i.e., your solution, idea, company, etc.) offer. Many will start with a long, difficult explanation, but the listener may still not understand what it is all about. As a speaker, your task is to briefly – and specifically – address the issue. Leave the details for the next time.

The most common mistakes

The most common elevator pitch mistakes

Before we talk about what a decent elevator speech is, I’ll outline the most common mistakes.

Your text isn’t clear

My experience in reading both personal motivation letters, helping entrepreneurs in making pitches, and making relevant suggestions has shown that quite often, people fail to bring out what’s most important and make the text attractive or talk too much. The more incomprehensible your text is and the more general your examples are, the worse the result will be.

Your speech sounds like a poem

Don’t present your speech as a well-memorized poem. It will never make the right impression. Speak sincerely, add emotions, and show that you believe in every word you say. If you’re blunt like fish, you’ll never succeed – investors want to see passion and energy, not the look of a frozen fish.

Too fast a pace

The fact that you have little time doesn’t mean you have to be in a hurry. Don’t forget to make pauses to let your partner think about what you just said. Equally important, don’t forget to keep eye contact – if you avoid it, your credibility decreases.

Too complicated a text

Avoid all kinds of specialized language or foreign words and speak in plain language that everybody can understand. In fact, your speech needs to be so clear that even a grandmother who doesn’t know anything about your area can understand it immediately.

You run out of time before you get to the point

Never ever think that delivering a pitch is easy. On the contrary, 30 seconds is an incredibly short time, so you need to practice and polish your speech at home to be ready to deliver your pitch at any time.

Otherwise, you may be in the middle of something when your time runs out, which means the listener will be left with no clear idea of what and why you offer.

Creating a pitch for business, product, or service

“The purpose of an elevator pitch is to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you’re with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over.” – Seth Godin

When writing your short speech, the specifics of the company or product must be taken into account. It may also happen that you’ll be talking about one thing more than another. Also, the order may differ, if justified, but in general, the elements of an elevator pitch are usually quite similar.

Elevator Pitch Structure

A description of the business opportunity or problem to be solved

Think of it as an introduction that should attract attention and interest. That’s why it may be the most important part of your pitch and therefore it requires careful preparation and consideration.

Describe some of the current relevant issues and try to relate to the listener in the very beginning – it’ll be easier to attract attention and interest. Briefly and clearly indicate what kind of problem your product/service solves or what business opportunity you are offering to the listener.

Ideally, you should be able to clearly describe the problem in two-three sentences. I’ve met some start-up entrepreneurs who were describing something with zeal, and I was thinking, „So what? What’s the problem here?“

The more distracting or trivial this problem or opportunity is, the more likely it is that the listener loses interest.

Describe how your product or service solves this problem

Answer the question, „What kind of benefit can you offer to the partner or the world?“ Activities and thoughts are great, but benefits are music to the listener’s ears.

It is believed that when I talk about vision, results, and what I want to achieve, it is an exaggeration. Remember that presenting facts, showing passion, and having a vision makes your story more convincing.

Many make the mistake of talking about the solution first, but you need to remember that you should start with the description of the problem mentioned in the previous paragraph and then offer the listener a solution.

Here, you should emphasize a unique selling point that clearly distinguishes you from your competitors. The listener should never be left thinking, „Well… and what is it you do that other do not?“

Market size and description, target group introduction

Think about who your services or products are likely to appeal to. The more the listener can relate, the better.

The two most important things are the availability of a market opportunity and the entrepreneur/team who are able to recognize this opportunity. Don’t try to convince the listener that your offer covers a fair share of the market and is suitable for everyone as it sounds dubious.

Description of competitors

There is always some kind of competition. Even if you come up with an absolutely unique idea, there’re people in this world who solve problems in their own tricky ways.

If you argue that there’s no competition, it’ll sound dubious, and, moreover, raise a question, „Maybe it has already been tried, and it has been found that there’s no demand, i.e., there’s no competition“.

So, look at your competitors thoroughly and highlight the things that you do differently.

Revealing your achievements (or those of your team)

No-one wants to buy a pig in a poke, so outline your main achievements or, in their absence, a vision of what you want to achieve.

Talk about your experiences and greatest achievements so that the listener can clearly understand what distinguishes you from your competitors. Highlight the most important thing your product or service offers to your customers. Even better if it can be expressed in numbers.

However, don’t waste your time praising (and overpraising). The investor doesn’t buy a product, but a company. Investors are to saying, „Bet on the horseman, not the horse“. In addition to the benefits, you must be able to demonstrate what you intend to do with the money.

Offer and call to action

You can follow the previous four points perfectly, but if you miss the following point, your speech is of no use. Therefore, bring out a clear call to action, which, again, should briefly outline the ways in which the investor and the company can be beneficial to each other.

This means you need to emphasize the activity you’re most interested in at the moment, for example. invitation to cooperation, phone number exchange, setting up a meeting, business card exchange, etc.

Elevator Pitch Structure

Frequently asked follow-up questions about the elevator pitch

Your speech may be perfect, but if you fail to answer the follow-up questions, your numbers are confusing, or your unpleasant personality comes out after a polished speech, there’s no hope of getting warm advice and support, not to mention funding.

Investors often support even the weirdest ideas if you’re able to answer their questions and give adequate sales numbers.

The crucial numbers to know:

  • Know your numbers: manufacturing costs (+ shipping, packaging), sales price, customer costs; current sales revenue and where it came from (online, wholesale, retail, fairs, licensing).
  • Why do you do this [your product, company]? What’s your story, background?
  • Where did the idea come from?
  • If there is a product that is very similar to many other products (food, beverages, clothes), you’ll definitely be asked what makes this product special, different.
  • What do you intend to do with the money? (Invest in marketing, development, etc.?)
  • Do you need investor knowledge and contacts, in addition to funding?
  • The number of shareholders in the company, previous investments (who, how much).
  • Number of employees in the company
  • Patents
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you pay yourself a salary?
  • The company’s own skills: marketing, technical skills, knowledge in the field, previous work experience, 100% dedication or a side project.
  • Your vision
  • Additional products and uses
  • How has the value of the company been assessed?

It should be noted that there are no good or bad responses (except for negative sales numbers when operating for a long time, or a large number of shares already issued). On the other hand, detailed responses give a complete picture of the company and the entrepreneur. Smart and experienced investors read between the lines even when you’re trying to hide something.

Similarities between the elevator pitches for self-introduction and investors

An elevator pitch for investors is different from how you introduce yourself to a potential customer. It also differs from how you introduce yourself on your website or in common situations.

Here are some important aspects that are identical in both cases. There are just three questions that both elevator pitches must answer:

  • Who are you and why you do what you do?
  • What do you do, for who, how, and what is the benefit?
  • On which basis can you promise results? Play your evidence.

Answer these questions based on the pitches you delivered before and make any changes if needed.

Five steps to a successful pitch for job interviews

Five steps to a successful elevator pitch for job interviews

As mentioned above repeatedly, an elevator pitch must be brief and specific so that you can deliver important information within a short period of time. This is only possible if you have previously considered the topics and issues to be addressed.

The same is true for job interviews. Here are some tips to succeed at job interviews.

1. Why you?

Think about how to give your employer an overview of who you are in 30-60 seconds and why you are the best candidate. Be sure to list your strengths for this particular position.

Is there anything you can offer that others cannot? Have you been interested in the area in question for many years, have you been trained, have you acquired professional education, run major projects, or worked in a similar position for many years? The above describes your past experiences in dealing with the issues of the employer’s area.

Also, poor is a man who has no dream, not a man with no penny in his pocket. It’s much more fun to hear about dreams than routine everyday activities. A dream ignites passion.

Also, keep in mind that the list of your skills on paper doesn’t give the employer the necessary information, better describe how you got those skills. Remember that the time for presenting yourself and your strengths can vary for each job interview. Think about what information should always come first and which one can be added if you have more time.

2. Tell your story

If job interview questions allow it, tell the audience your story – explain what has motivated you to choose this particular job and area. No-one knows you meeting you for the first time, which means that the listeners must be given a reason to like you. The easiest way to do this is through emotions, only then facts and numbers can be presented.

Emotions create stories that others can relate to. Try telling a story or a problem that has led you to the employer’s field (for example, a car mechanic who’s been building his dream car for years, piece by piece, or a computer specialist who’s been earning pocket money by improving family and friends’ computers). Try to describe what’s driving YOU, what problems you want to solve, or what tasks to accomplish. Try to relate your story to the job task description offered by the employer.

3. Self-confidence is a decision

Self-confidence is not easy for everyone, it often takes people many years to find the inner strength they need. However, you can try to just make a decision to be confident and start acting accordingly. In English, they say „fake it till you make it“, which is true.

The listeners don’t understand what’s going on inside of you, all they can see is a confident person, and they treat you accordingly. This tip may not be suitable for everyone, but there’re many of you who stick to it.

4. Focus on the audience

Most of all, the employer is interested in finding a solution to the customer’s problem and what benefits they get from the candidate. To answer these questions, interviews with a number of candidates are conducted by the employer. The better the candidate understands the employer’s problems and their possible solutions, the greater the employer’s interest.

The elevator pitch focuses on what problem the speaker’s trying to solve with their idea and team, where the problem occurs, and what the solution is. However, at a job interview, you need to know the employer’s field of activity (including common problems and solutions), current activities (e.g., major projects and the latest media coverage), and customer profiles (i.e., whose problems the employer resolves with their service or product).

Knowing this shows that you’ve done your homework, you know the field and take the offer seriously. You get bonus points for knowing the employer’s competitors and global trends.

5. Good preparation is half the win

To be successful in presenting one’s own ideas, the text (for example, a brief 30-second self-introduction) should be first written on paper.

Is all the necessary information on paper or should anything be deleted? Additionally, make a speech in a loud voice to work on the flow and make it sound clearer. If the text is brilliant and you’re used to the presentation format, every subsequent job interview will be easier.

Even though every job interview is an opportunity to practice, you can practice introducing yourself and your strengths whenever you have some free time, on different occasions, and wherever this opportunity opens. Each such presentation also means feedback and a chance to polish your speech.

How to practice your speech?

How to practice elevator pitches

Once your elevator pitch is ready and it seems that all important parts are in place, it’s time to start practising it. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Use a stopwatch to measure how long your speech is

Our writing speed is 13 words per minute, whereas our speech pace is about 100-200 words per minute, and reading speed, 200-400 words per minute. This means, when speaking, you have at least 10 times less time to prepare than when writing.

So, once you have your first elevator pitch ready, practice it repeatedly. Speak in a loud voice and use a stopwatch. If you see that the pitch is too long, think about what to leave out.

If you notice that the sentencing tends to be too long, change it accordingly. The important thing is that your elevator pitch is smooth and comprehensible.

Make your speech in front of someone

It could be a person who is as objective as possible and able to give you constructive feedback. Friends tend to be a little bit relaxed in these terms. The more comprehensive and relevant feedback you receive, the more it will help you further on.

Practice in front of the camera

The fastest way to improve your body language is by recording your presentation and watching it on a big screen. The camera reveals movements and activities that we do unconsciously.

Watching yourself for the first time can be scary, but I promise you that the feedback you get is invaluable. If possible, invite a friend or family member to watch with you and let them give feedback. Check how you look on camera and make sure you appear friendly and smiling.

Practice speaking standing

Even if you practice your elevator pitch at home, always do it standing. This is how you get used to a situation where you can’t hide your trembling body parts from your listeners. In addition, you’ll be able to practice what to do with your hands. And most importantly – you appear much more of a role model when standing.

Practice when taking the elevator

Whenever you take the elevator, try practicing your elevator pitch while going to the last floor. However, to be able to handle unexpected situations, don’t go all the way to the top floor, but stop halfway. This way, you’ll know what to leave out in the case of a shorter speech.

To sum up: How to make a perfect elevator pitch?

Although your speech should be short and striking, don’t think that it’s a piece of cake. On the contrary, 30 seconds is a very short time; therefore, you must practice and polish your speech at home, so that you’re ready to deliver it even when caught off guard.

Once you go through the elements of the elevator pitch listed in this blog post and follow my other tips, you’ll be very close to delivering an excellent speech.

Related questions

What is a persuasive speech? The main objective of a persuasive speech is to make your listeners do what you want them to do. For example, „buy my product“, „vote for me“, „believe what I’m talking about“, and so on.(full article here)

What is an impromptu speech? An impromptu speech is a speech which is given without any thorough preparation. It is five- to eight-minute speech with a characteristically short preparation time of a couple of minutes. (full article here)

What is audience analysis? Audience analysis gives you the opportunity to get as much information about the background of your listeners as possible. Using this information, you can prepare your message so that it builds on the interests, needs, and expectations of your listeners. (full article here)

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Who is Janek Tuttar?

My name is Janek Tuttar, and I am the founder and author of Speak and Conquer website.

I have been teaching public speaking at Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences

Here, I am sharing the wisdom of how to cope in different public speaking situations.

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Janek Tuttar

Hi! My name is Janek Tuttar, and I am the founder and author of SpeakAndConquer.com.

I have been teaching and blogging about public speaking since spring 2007. Here, I am sharing the wisdom of how to cope in different public speaking situations.

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