Have That Elevator Pitch Ready When You Need It

Lee Polevoi by Lee Polevoi on November 23, 2011
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Picture this: You’re attending a high-level trade show with industry leaders and potential customers. On the second day, you find yourself getting into an elevator with the head of the conference, a person whose knowledge of the industry and network contacts could spell big business for you if you make a good impression. As the elevator rises, you realize it’s now or never. You have to introduce yourself and your company in 30 seconds or less — or you will miss the opportunity.

Elevator pitches are useful in many professional and social situations, and thus every small-business owner or entrepreneur should learn how to deliver them. Here are seven tips for mastering the art of defining yourself and your mission in just a few sentences.

  1. Cut to the chase. The average person’s attention span is short, from 15 to 30 seconds (think TV commercial), so your elevator pitch should be only that long.
  2. Keep it simple. Avoid industry jargon and statistics. You have mere seconds to make an impression, so choose clarity over convoluted terms.
  3. State what you sell and your target market. Briefly describe your product or service and who will buy it. Remember: Omit all unnecessary details!
  4. What sets your business apart? If you have an advantage over the competition, don’t hide it. Briefly describe how your products, services, distribution channels, or industry partnerships are better than anyone else’s.
  5. What’s your hook? Each part of your elevator pitch needs to hold the listener’s interest for the next part of the speech. The goal to get the person to wonder how you do such wonderful things… and wouldn’t this be great for my business? You ultimately want to continue the conversation after the elevator ride ends. Have a business card at the ready.
  6. Be conversational. This will take practice, but you want your pitch to roll off your tongue in a relaxed, off-the-cuff way. Pay attention to your speaking tone, the phrases you use, and your body language when you talk.
  7. Add credibility. If time permits, drop the name of a well-known client and explain how your business achieved great results for that client.

This may seem like a lot of information to cram into 30 seconds, but practice makes perfect. Try your elevator pitch out on your spouse or partner, colleagues, and even your children (a true test of holding someone’s attention!). Keep purging extraneous details until your pitch is polished, concise, and attention-grabbing.

Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.

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