The elevator pitch

For a lot of us it’s a fact of life: you always think of the things you should have said after the conversation finishes or the moment passes. Why is it that when you need something brilliant to come out of your mouth, it doesn’t come out, or it comes out wrong? The name ‘elevator pitch’ is based on the idea that it should be possible to deliver a summary of your conversation in the time span of an elevator ride (thirty seconds to two minutes). If two minutes are all you have, what will you say? 


“A while ago I shared an elevator with a Board member of a major multinational. He had no idea who I was. But I knew exactly who he was and unfortunately, it was going to stay that way.  Apart from a “Good morning” and a “Goodbye” we rode the elevator in silence. I literally had my moment to speak and I did nothing with it. Of course, afterwards I thought of about a million brilliant things I could have said, but didn’t. I fluffed it.”

Seminar participant

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Forethought and planning

The participant from the above quote didn’t think to prepare for such a moment. Perhaps she thought she would just “wing it” if the moment ever arrived. But it requires real forethought and planning to get your message across concisely and engagingly, especially when you only have two minutes to do it.

“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

Mark Twain

How to get key points across in two minutes

A great elevator pitch has one aim. To appeal to someone you want something from somewhere in the future. When the doors open you want to be walking away with some kind of commitment. At the very least, you’re hoping for a business card. So, absolutely everything you’re going to say has to generate interest – there’s no space for fluff and waffle. That can be pretty tough, and that’s why it’s all about the preparation and thorough, personalized practice with tough and challenging sparring partners.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you prepare your elevator pitch, starting with the GOALS model that we use in our training sessions:

  • Goal – Know what your goal is from the outset

  • Opening – How will you open your elevator pitch and make it topical and relevant?

  • Attention – How will you keep their interest in what you’re saying?

  • Language – Don’t be tempted into using jargon and complex words.

  • Steps – What are the next steps?

An elevator pitch is (should be) a two-way conversation

Talking for a minute without interruption is a long time, have you tried it, or listen to someone do it? Say your elevator ride takes as much as two minutes. In that time you’re building rapport, you’re allowing the other person to answer and ask you a question or two, etc. It’s not a monologue. Brian Walters calls it verbal ping-pong. So in fact, you might only have the chance to say three or so “meaningful” things. Having an (important) elevator conversation with someone you don’t really know can go one of many ways in between going terribly wrong and going absolutely great.

Final tips for your elevator pitch

Be interesting, whatever you say. When possible.

  • Use similes when describing yourself.
  • Compare yourself/the situation to someone/something recognizable or a cross between things.
  • Create surprise.
  • Listen.


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