How to Create and Refine Your Elevator Pitch

Opportunity is knocking. Do you hear it? If you’re listening for the knock on the proverbial front door, you may miss it. Opportunity doesn’t always present itself with fanfare. It’s not always direct. It may not come from the career networking event you’ve signed up for. It may not be found in the list of open positions you’re combing through on Indeed. It may not look like your current job. It may not be within your existing field. You never know where your next opportunity will come from. It may very well arise in the midst of a conversation at the grocery store check-out line. Or it could be during an informational meeting you set up to explore an area of interest. Make sure you are prepared with a convincing “elevator pitch.”

Lobby: Opportunity knocks

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” That’s the gist of the elevator pitch. Imagine you’ve just stepped into an elevator. You’re traveling up several floors to your hotel room. You find yourself standing next to the VC investor who spoke earlier at the conference you’re attending, as well as the CEO of a business you’d like to work with and a third individual who is clearly smack dab in the center of your target market. “So, you’re attending the conference,” notes the VC, as she points to your name tag, “What is it you do?” This is it. This is your chance. You’ve got the next 30-60 seconds before those doors open again to explain to these three people who you are and why they need to care about it. Doing so succinctly is of upmost importance.

First Floor: Who are you?

At the heart of it, a solid elevator pitch is your highlight reel: who you are, what you offer, what you want, and why the person standing there with you should care about it. While you want to take the time to prepare your pitch, you don’t want it to come out sounding canned and stiff every time you deliver it. Think about bullet points you’d like cover and then tailor the presentation to your audience. Take some time nailing down what might be included. Your pitch will coalesce from there.

Second Floor: Who are they?

The pitch you shoot the VC is probably not going to be exactly the same as the one you deliver to your potential client. Recognize the nuances of each potential audience and be prepared to adapt your pitch where appropriate. This means doing some homework. Recognize the key pain points and sparks of each: What’s going to pique their interest? What’s going to motivate them to open a more thorough dialogue with you?

Third Floor: Word choice matters

Skip the industry jargon. Your elevator pitch should be clear and simple. Remember what Einstein said and focus on explaining things simply. Leave out buzzy words and industry specific acronyms. Your conversation partner may not recognize the jargon, for one thing. For another, it can make your pitch sound stilted like you’re trying too hard to sound like you know a thing or two. Keep it simple. Further, focus your points on your audience and not on you. Even the nicest people are listening for the words that answer the eternal question, “What’s in it for me?” Benefit-focused terminology primes the pump better than a litany of experience. In other words, you’re not going to talk yourself into a job interview with the phrase, “I’ve got 20 years management experience.” However, “I’ve successfully led five startup organizations from idea to profitability” might get you an invite for a more detailed conversation.

Fourth Floor: Whet their appetite

Tonight, when you’re watching your stash of DVR’d programming, don’t fast forward through the commercials. Pay close attention to what’s happening in each pitch. These 30-second spots aren’t loading you up with details. Ads are designed to get your attention and leave you wanting to learn more. That’s your elevator pitch. You’re just opening a door. You’re giving a headline, and maybe a sub-head, luring your audience in to download the full story. Your goal with this pitch is to open a door and get an invite in to the room.

Fifth Floor: Tell them what they want

Every good pitch, elevator or otherwise, involves a call to action. You can be direct: “I’d love to set up a time to talk with you in further detail. Would you be interested in meeting for lunch one-day next week?” If you’re going this route, don’t go halfway. Finishing your pitch with a vague statement about when you’ll talk again is the same as not serving the ball at all. If you’re going in hard, own it. Read the room. If a hard close seems like it’ll leave things off on a sour note, skip it. Instead, land with “I’d be happy to talk with you in more detail if you’re interested. Can I give you my card?”

Sixth Floor: Practice it

Now that you’ve done your homework and worked it all out, take the time to practice it. There’s a balance between having your points down and coming in over-rehearsed. Get comfortable with your talking points so you can be flexible with it. Take time to practice face-to-face with another person. As a professional coach, I’ve helped others like you close the gap between where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. Let’s schedule a time to talk about your elevator pitch and get it perfected. We can set up a free 15-minute collaborative interview to help you evaluate our program options. You can reach me via email: