Why You Need An Elevator Pitch… And How To Craft One

The world is full of incredible people with amazing ideas, but I assure you, only a very few of those ideas ever come fully to fruition. You can be a consummate expert with decades of experience, or a true prodigy with the greatest concept, plan or invention. It can have rock solid design, complete feasibility and perfectly timed, but if you cannot communicate it with those that would facilitate and embrace it, it is entirely possible it will never gain major traction and become all it can be. You must have a method to convey your idea clearly, compellingly and succinctly. You need an elevator pitch.

Set aside any concepts of “high pressure sales” and “building hype”.  What we are going for here is simply actionable communication; the ability to convey the essence of your ideas, the energy and passion you have for them, and the sincere desire to share something you believe others would benefit from or enjoy.  If you actually have all those things, the rest will follow.

Components of an Elevator Pitch

  1. Define
  2. Engage
  3. Explain
  4. Stand Out
  5. Solicit Action
1 Define Your Pitch:  Obviously, on the most basic level you want to convey your idea, but also how can you focus a precise message, who is your audience and what is your definition of success? The last should be easily measurable and actionable by your audience without unnecessary impediments.  If you are attempting to get a book published, “getting a royalty check” might be too far down the road. Consider something more immediate, such as getting the listener to agree to review your manuscript, sign-up for early sample chapters or notification when the book can be ordered.

2 Initial Audience Engagement: You are attempting to establish a solid connection with your audience, because that connection is the first step to get them actively listening and receptive to your message. Done poorly, this can seem campy or manipulative so strive to be earnest and emphatic. There may be no single way to establish this initial rapport, so consider having “openers” that are suitable for different audiences, media and settings. Create a scenario that the audience can identify with, outline the potential your idea will fulfill and/or illustrate an need or opportunity.  Your goal is to intrigue the listener and prepare them for how your idea will address this scenario.

3 Explain: You’ve put the scenario out there, now you have to show how you and your idea is capable of addressing all the points your outlined.  You are fulfilling the scenario you used to engage your listener, in their minds. This part of your elevator pitch should not only deliver on a solution, but be dynamic enough to anticipate and answer variations and edge cases of your original premise. The explanation should dovetail the scenario you created so avoid leaving out any of the points you created unaddressed in Step 2 above.

4 Stand Out:  Distinguish yourself and your idea from other possible solutions. Point out how you and your idea stands above others that might address some of the issues you set forth in Step 2.  You can also use this step to add in “multipliers”, like past successes, brief stats/case study information and personal or organizational reputation. What this should not be is a rambling distraction from your central idea/pitch, or an adversarial attack on other ideas.

5 Solicit Action:  In a softer pitch, you might simply want to convey information or creating excitement, but honestly, you should strive for some action, no matter how small, from your audience.  Why?  Because even if you aren’t going for a sale or commitment, a small reciprocal action by your audience creates a connection with them, hopefully making them feel invested in you and your idea.  Remember, this is your metric for success so try to make it realistically measurable.  It is also the part many people are most uncomfortable asking for. It’s ok to start with a small “ask” and step it up in later versions after you build confidence.

Additional Points

Practice:  No matter how silly you think you look or sound doing it, practice; in front of a mirror, record it with your webcam, with a colleague or partner. Whatever works best for you. Pay special attention to pacing if you are speaking and body language if you are presenting.  You are invariably going to be uncomfortable with some aspect of yourself, it is only human.  If you feel something really needs correcting, work on it.  If it can’t be corrected, find ways to mitigate it or make peace with it.

Reinforcement:  These can be things as simple as take-aways like card or flyers, or it can be followups in the form of outreach emails or connection. Find one or more than work for you, resonate with your target audience, and allow you to solicit additional action or create opportunities to connect further with them.

Refinement:  Review your pitch and the results you get.  Listen to other people’s pitches.  Stay in touch with trends and new developments that impact your idea.  Evolve and refine your pitch with this new information and find ways to keep you pitch fresh and relevant.



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