Well, let’s take it from the top ladies and gents. Your basic elevator pitch is really nothing more than a sentence or two that you can say in 30-seconds (or, you know,whatever time your traditional elevator trip might take you to experience) to tell someone what you do, or what you have and WHY IT IS DIFFERENT than anything they might have heard of before. Ideally, you would interest them in what you have to offer.
What is an elevator pitch?
Here, let me set the scene for you:
You just got off the bus in Hollywood and stumbled to the office building where a known Agent has his shop. You catch him on the bottom floor and magically sneak into the elevator with him. You, my dear innocent country bumpkin have only this one ride up to his floor in order to give him your pitch. After that, you may never see him again. Are you ready . . . because the doors are closing. Go!
The obvious answer here to being able to pass this test is to practice. You have to think ahead. You have to be ready. And when that moment arrives, you have to take it—without hesitation. But practice what? Say what? Where do you start? Don’t worry. We’re here to help.
What are the goals of an elevator pitch?
Ideally with an elevator pitch you find out that this person is hooked! They want more of whatever it is that you have. Some good indications of this are:
- If they keep talking outside the elevator after they have reached their floor
- Or they maybe give you a business card
- Or they suggest you set up a meeting
- Ideally you get their email address (for list-building purposes)
Here is a pro tip: You are selling for the appointment not for the purchase. Don’t make the mistake of going overboard. Enthusiasm is good, but it can also trip you up. Just aim to pave the way for more contact, not to have them personally bankroll your entire future. The only goal is to hear them say they would like to hear more.
But why does it work? What is going on behind the scenes?
Interestingly enough, the elevator pitch is part of a much larger evolution in journalism and storytelling. If you are somewhat well-read, you may have come across novels from authors like Jules Verne for example. Years ago, authors were “allowed” to ramble on. They could do nothing for page after page of just, you know, meandering descriptions of the setting. Audiences loved that because back then, the novel was the way they experienced worlds they couldn’t visit firsthand.
Today we have the Internet. We have television. Accordingly, we don’t consume our content in the same way. Today, we need to get it now. Tell me straight. I can decide on my own if I want to know more.
This isn’t a bad thing, mind you, unless you stay stuck using only the tools of the past. If you can adapt, you’ll find you have many more ways to reach your audience. Not that it’s easier to reach your audience today, mind you. It isn’t. Everyone else has the same tools as you. So it is still a rough ride. This is why you need to be able to capture the attention of your audience immediately and, more importantly, clearly and concisely.
Enter the sound-bite. Sound-bites work because they are focused. They are precise. The good news, is that you get to write it and prepare it and practice it all in advance. Your message can be sharpened and it can be short. That’s a bonus.
Next, practice till you get there. Yes, it has to be perfect. But you have time to get to that level. As they say, slow is smooth and smooth is fast. So take your time and make it the best it can be.
Can you think of another place you have seen sound-bites? The TV news. Politicians use them often. So do journalists.
Do you know why policy makers rehearse and use these? Because they need to communicate in no uncertain terms. A well-written, well rehearsed sound-bite gets your point across clearly. The lesson: Not only can you hone your message, you absolutely SHOULD hone your message.
How do you create an elevator pitch?
Remember that at its essence, it’s simple. You want to get the point across about what you do. Also about what makes you unique. You then want to anchor the information in their mind. Here are a couple of ways to do this:
- It works like this: you would say, “my book brings together elements from this idea and combines it with aspects of that idea.” For example, “In world A, people think this thing, while in world B, they think that. So the cool part is, I combine both with a simple process. It is absolutely unique and no one else in the market has done this.”
- Method 2 is: Tell them something about you or your product that makes it unique, and then follow it up with a question about how they solve that issue today. Done properly, it will really hook them. So for example, “My company is the only one in the world today that has a patented method to automatically do your taxes a tiny bit at a time as your daily receipts are coming in. So for example, you go to Starbucks, we already account for it before you even get back to your car. It’s 100% automated and it’s free. How do you currently do your taxes?”
Now that you have an elevator pitch, how do you know it works? Do they ask even ONE question? Or do they not care or respond after you have said your elevator pitch? On its own, this is not a bad thing. This could simply mean that they are not your market. It doesn’t have to mean that your elevator pitch is terrible. So how do you know?
Test it! Find specific groups—or at the very least people—and say your elevator pitch to them. Do they still not ask you a follow-up question? Are they your market? If they are, this is very important feedback. At this point (if you’ve tested enough of your target market) you can either change your elevator pitch or change your product.
Test it again to know for sure, but make sure you have refined it and practiced it first, just like you have done above. Remember the decision maker I mentioned in the beginning? You may only get one chance with this person. Make it count.