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8 Tips For A Great Elevator Pitch To Make An Awesome First Impression!

An impressive elevator pitch can make or mar your first impression. Here's everything you need to make an excellent elevator pitch!

An impressive elevator pitch can make or mar your first impression. Here’s everything you need to make an excellent elevator pitch!

What if you got on an elevator and you found yourself travelling with Bill Gates. Say 16 floors to go and 40 seconds of time with the tech giant! How would you make use of these precious seconds?

You take your seat on a plane. The empty seat next to yours is taken by Narayan Murthy. He politely smiles at you and asks what do you do? The next 10-20 seconds are critical to catching his attention. What will you say?

Designations, in such situations, is a waste of time and opportunity. You need something more creative and interesting.

Come to think of it, the number of networking events we go to and meet similar-sounding professionals, it’s easy to lose them in a blur. Not many people stand out.

So creating an elevator pitch for yourself isn’t just for times you run into celebrities inside elevators! It’s worth your time and effort to make yourself memorable and unique even for ordinary mortals!

This post has a step-by-step approach to building an effective elevator pitch for yourself.

What is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is a 30-60 second clear speech to convince someone about a product or company. It is named thus since it should be short enough for you to explain it to someone on an elevator ride.

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Basically, it is a “10-75 word you tagline”

Stephynie Malik, entrepreneur and a Forbes Council Member has summed up the elevator pitch in these words, “They’re brief, they’re targeted and they highlight the value I can add or explain “What’s in it for you?” to gain the recipient’s attention and interest.”

What comes up from this definition is:

Brief: Brevity is key – It should be a maximum of 60 seconds or 75 words. But clarity is king. It’s not an effective pitch if people don’t understand what you do.

Targeted: Begin with the end in mind. You can’t be doing something for everybody.

Value add words: These words are the answer to what your target audience is listening for

How do you know you get your elevator pitch right? If you get relevant questions about your work in response, your job is done. Just so we are clear – what is not an elevator pitch:

Your designation is not your elevator pitch. And your elevator pitch is not a sales pitch

Why do you need an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch can be helpful in a lot of ways. It helps you stand out in the crowd.

In general, the elevator pitch:

1. Creates intrigue: Apart from telling people what you do, an elevator pitch also creates intrigue. This is what makes you memorable too

  1. Creates a good first impression: Think of how people usually introduce themselves. It’s either with a designation or a boring version of what they do. They usually sound mechanical. A creative pitch helps create a great first impression and be captivating from the word go.

  2. Opens conversation: And in an interesting manner. The pitch gives a lot more than your designation. It introduces specific elements of your job that makes conversations possible from thereon.

  3. Serves as a differentiator: As I said, when everyone else sounds similar to each other, an interesting pitch is a great differentiator. It helps you stick in the memory of people for being such a breath of fresh air.

5. Catches attention: That’s all we are trying to do in a crowded room, right? While people make the rounds of introducing themselves, catching their attention is a great achievement in itself

6. Gets relevant follow up questions: The resulting conversation that you expect has to be along these lines – centred around what you just said in your pitch. Keep reading to know how to produce this effect!

Some examples of elevator pitches

Some popular elevator pitches that border on tag lines are:

UBER: The car-hailing app

SNAPCHAT: People, let’s have fun together

PINTEREST: The digital scrapbook service for all your need

Examples of a bad elevator pitch:

I help people make money. It’s short but what people? And how do you help them make money?

I provide solutions for small business owners. Again, it’s short and says who it is for. But what are the solutions and how do you do it?

It’s not about you but about what your target audience needs

The simplest approach could be – Problem – Solution. 

How to write your elevator pitch?

Also think of your value proposition, your target audience and the next steps to do business with you.

  1. Prepare yourself: Going by the problem-solution format, have a clear problem statement. This helps focus your solution on solving that one problem. Really think about your niche and target audience. Brainstorm about the value proposition you have to offer. Think of a creative hook you can start your pitch with – something attention-grabbing. Start writing drafts of your elevator pitch to arrange the ideas in the right order.
  2. Look up your competitors: Feeling blank? Don’t know where to start? Look up other people in your niche and industry. Check out what they have as their pitch. How have they differentiated themselves in so few words. This should give you some idea since the target customers are likely to be similar. You fill in the other gaps.
  3. Start writing: All ideas are abstract till they stay in your mind. Start writing drafts of your pitch. It doesn’t have to fit into the length or the number of words. Put together your problem statement, your value proposition and your target audience. See what you get. Work around with it.
  4. Edit edit edit! It’s time now to attack it piece by piece. Hack words and phrases that don’t need to be there. Make every word count. Edit to have a crisp problem leading to a solution for your target audience.
  5. Get feedback: You may think that you got it perfectly. But remember, it is about them and not you! Let’s test it now! Run your pitch by family, friends, work friends, acquaintances too, if possible. Did you get the kind of reaction you had in mind?

Or did they react in unexpected ways? Maybe they were blank about what exactly you do. Did they have to give you confused looks? Was you value proposition clear to them? Get feedback and continue editing your draft ruthlessly.

In some cases, their questions might give a new approach to re-write the whole thing so that it makes better sense. Don’t hesitate to do that if it helps you craft a better pitch.

  1. And finally, make every word count. The goal to make your pitch crisp might tempt you to add some high sounding words – so you still sound impressive! But that is not going to do the trick. Replacing easy words with jargon will only be counter-productive. So just a little warning about this pitfall.

Some templates for a great elevator pitch

These templates are just to make your job easier. You may refine your pitch starting from here. They will ensure that you include all the elements.

My name is __________ and I help (your ideal client) and help them (reach a goal) by ______ (my services)

If I plug in my variables here, it’ll be something like:

My name is Suman and I help corporates and individuals reach their skill goals through customised training programs.

OR

You can also start with the target audience

(target audience) ________ pay me to ___________ (what you do) to reach ___________ (goal)

After you plug in the variables, say for a virtual assistant, you get:

Entrepreneurs pay me to keep their paperwork streamlined for smooth functioning of their business

Another example for, say a business coach could be,

Small businesses pay me to increase their ROI through the action points I guide them through in my one on one sessions

The above is a sort of mix of the 2 templates. As I said, it isn’t a rule cast in stone. You can mix and match it come up with something unique as long as you stick to the basics that a pitch should have.

Deliver the pitch perfectly!

An elevator pitch – as mechanical as the process of crafting seems to be – has to be delivered as effortlessly.

It shouldn’t be mechanical. If you are thinking about the variables in your head, you will sound like you are reciting it. And that is going to be counter productive.

Make it more human and natural. It should just roll off your tongue. After all, you are talking about what you do and hopefully are passionate about it! You sound enthusiastic about what you do so that it encourages others to mirror that emotion too.

Here are a few tips to get right:

  1. Practice, practice, practice! It is ironic that the most memorable speeches that are effortlessly delivered are a result of hours of deliberate practice. So practice your elevator pitch till it naturally rolls off your tongue. You may find that some words or phrases seemed great in writing but don’t sound impressive when you say them. The pitch is written for the ear and not the eye. Don’t hesitate to go back to the drawing board and re-do it. Chop your thoughts to give yourself pausing and breathing space.
  2. Sound natural: Work out the right voice modulation and the words you want to emphasise. Strive to sound natural. Really feel the words. Like I said your passion is going to get the other person interested. Remember that the elevator pitch is a conversation starter and not really an end in itself. So it should help you smoothly glide into a conversation through the pitch.
  3. Work with your family: Again, practice it with your family and friends. Make sure you get it right every single time. Also beware of rattling it mechanically due to numerous repetitions. As I said, it is ironic but the practice should make you sound natural rather than mechanical.
  4. Test it: Try it at a few networking events and work-related meetings. Make a note of the reaction. This is real-time feedback that will make you refine your pitch and make it even better.

Follow up after the elevator pitch

The elevator pitch is the beginning. It is meant to pique interest and generate a conversation from there.

So what next?

Always have a few follow-ups to support your pitch and respond to expected questions.

For instance:

Stats: We recently helped a client increase the ROI by 10% using our google ad strategies

Stories: A client of mine had problems streamlining his business. He usually fell short of manpower. I helped him put together an action plan and outsource work virtually.

Call to action: You could also follow it up with the next step – maybe email a brochure, fix a meet over coffee or ask them how they’d like to explore your services.

Clients you’ve worked for: You could mention industries that you cater to and if it’s okay mention a few prestigious clients so that people get a better idea of what you do.

Some additional tips to perfect your pitch

Here are some additional tips that you might find useful:

  1. Add humour: Add humour, if possible. It really depends on how well you can do it. If it’s alone that only you chuckle at and leave the listeners blinking in confusion, it’s a dud! So think long and hard about it. It should work with all kinds of people – even they aren’t your target audience, you want them to recommend you to people who are.
  2. Use the inverted pyramid: This might help you with the writing process. Start with the most important information first and then descend gradually to the details. Your elevator pitch should result in a conversation that gets you to reveal all the details as you go along.
  3. ‘What’s in it for me?’ is more important than how good you are. This is pretty much the anthem to go by as far as elevator pitches go. It’s not about what “I do” but what “you get” if we work together. People are more interested in what’s in it for them.
  4. Tell them the benefits of working with you: You might have a money-back policy. Or offer onsite services. Or handle turnkey projects in an industry that doesn’t. These are some examples of unique benefits that might interest people.

I have covered all the steps that can help you create a great elevator pitch. It might seem hard and daunting at first. The more times you do this – and refine as you go along, the more it’s going to feel like second nature to you.

An impressive elevator pitch can make or mar your first impression. Being able to confidently and succinctly tells people what you do and you can’t beat that!

What’s your elevator pitch?

Picture credits: Micheal Jung for Getty Images via Canva

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About the Author

Suman Kher

Hello! I am a soft skills trainer with a passion to help people become better communicators and presenters. Writing is one of the tools I use to share my expertise and enable people to develop read more...

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