The rumored origins of the elevator pitch began in journalism (Vanity Fair, to be exact), but the practice has found a place in almost every industry. Short, succinct, and to the point, the elevator pitch can be both a necessity and a hindrance to anyone who has to employ it. From pitching your own company to VCs to selling your overbooked boss on a new project, a prepared elevator speech is an excellent tool to have in your back pocket. Easier said than done right? Follow these do’s and don’ts the next time you’re preparing a quick pitch.

A man is giving a quick elevator pitch to a VC


DO: Consider objective

As with any presentation or project, define objectives for your elevator speech before getting down to the nitty gritty. Are you hoping the pitch will entice a client to sign off on a project? Are you seeking an investment? Do you want to convert a potential customer?

In each of these scenarios, the pitch will look slightly different. However, on some level, every elevator pitch is selling something. What does a “sale” look like in your pitch? If the concept of a sale sends you into a cold sweat, consider refining your sales message first.

After your objective is defined, you have a strong foundation to move forward with.

DON’T: Get caught up in details

The standard length of an elevator speech is between 30 seconds and two minutes, so you don’t have the luxury of going into the minutiae of your venture. Instead, opt for explaining the big picture. The only exception to this rule might occur if you have striking data, stats, or a big name. If you have a compelling number - for example, how many people face this issue - use it. If your project or experience involves a big name client, drop it in.

Understand that your audience can’t possibly know all your idea has to offer in the designated time of your pitch. How can your brand message be distilled to help tell your story? Study other elevator pitch examples on YouTube to find inspiration or ideas.

DO: Make it speak to them

With time scarce, try to appeal to your audience’s specific pain points. You don’t have time to waste setting up the problem if it’s something your audience already knows about. Try to create a shorthand of understanding with your listeners by invoking a common experience.

You often hear these selling techniques in startup sales pitches. For example, calling your venture “The Netflix of ties,” immediately helps the your audience understand your concept. They already know what Netflix is, and you’ve quickly told your story in only a few words.

DON’T: Give it all away

An elevator speech is simply an introduction to your concept--a foot in the door. It’s impossible to give everything away in your quick pitch, so use time to your advantage. Remember you can leave your listeners wanting more. Don’t shy away from leaving some elements unanswered. Don’t use this casual presentation as a space to give away proprietary information, or reveal your methodology.

DO: Practice, practice, practice

Elevator pitches are short and to the point. Trying to wing a pitch can lead to you struggling for words, or simply losing your train of thought when time is of the essence. The more you practice explaining your concept quickly, the more you’ll improve.

If you’re considering in enrolling in a pitch competition, find a meetup group or peers you can work with to hone your craft.

Need help refining your elevator speech, or looking for someone to practice and get professional feedback from? Take advantage of a free consultation with one of Ace-up's Premiere Business Coaches and see how they can help you today. They're thoroughly vetted, high-quality professionals in their fields, with a variety of specialties to get your business to where you want it to be.

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