Elevator pitches are important, not just for people, but for businesses as well. When talking to potential clients, investors, or even partners, it’s crucial to be prepared to give a pitch quickly and effectively.
One of the first steps in writing an elevator pitch is to identify the audience. Industry gurus may be comfortable with technical terms, but others can drown in difficult phrases. Potential business partners, for instance, should receive a different pitch than potential clients.
The message itself should be considered as well. Although many people want to provide as much information as possible, a better technique is to simply address the needs of the audience. Due to their brief nature, elevator pitches aren’t well suited to close sales. Most are used as an introduction, or to establish a follow-up where the audience can receive more information. In this way, elevator pitches are similar to an advertisement in function. They’re meant to establish interest and a connection. In less than a minute, an elevator pitch must communicate what a company has to offer to the audience, and encourage a follow up discussion, in which more information can be provided. With such a limited time frame, only the necessary points should be conveyed.
Once the audience and message are identified, companies have to decide where to put that message. An elevator pitch may not be effective if the audience is distracted or unwilling to listen, so it must be delivered at a place and time that ensures the audience’s attention. Unfortunately, the nature of an elevator pitch is that it may happen at virtually any time. It is often not an option to control the place and time it’s delivered, but whenever possible, it should be done.
The biggest challenge is to convey a meaningful and compelling message in a very short amount of time. This is usually less than one minute. Many recommend 20 seconds, but time isn’t necessarily the best guideline. An elevator pitch should contain as many words as can be said comfortably in a period. Many people make the mistake of trying to talk very quickly, in an attempt to cram as many ideas in as possible, but this often reflects poorly on the messenger.
It’s also important to identify what will NOT be effective. Pitch writers must consider what will set off the audience’s, “BS Detector”, and avoid those words and phrases, but words aren’t the only things that may dissuade an audience. Physical and tonal cues can make a big difference as well, since they may give away lack of confidence or make the presenter sound in-genuine. Many people forget about the importance of practicing pitches, and becoming comfortable with presenting them. The best written pitch may be ruined by awkward pauses, stuttering, or poor use of hand gestures.
One tactic for optimizing a pitch is association. Rather than explaining a complicated idea, it’s often better to simply compare the subject to something that the audience already understands, and explain the differences instead. This provides an opportunity to discuss advantages over competitors, and address why the differences matter.
In many cases, the simplest way to write an elevator pitch is by shrinking a series of drafts. The first attempt can be five minutes long, but after some rewriting, it may be limited to three minutes. After a few drafts, the pitch can be shrunk gradually to one minute or less. It may be difficult to cut information out, but the key is to weigh the importance of each point. Only the necessary points should be kept.
A well written elevator pitch should begin with a phrase that catches the audience’s interest, and enforce the points with a call to action at the end. A simple way to engage someone immediately is through a question that’s related to the pitch’s value proposition. The audience needs to know that they have a need, and that the pitch will address that need. At the end, a pitch should include a call to action that will encourage a follow-up. Simply asking, “Can I call/email you to provide more information? When is good for you?”, can be effective.
After a pitch has been given, it’s important to be prepared for questions. Whether or not the pitch goes well, many audiences will be curious or need to have something clarified. This is why a presenter should research and be familiar with related topics. Even with this preparation, someone will inevitably ask something that cannot be answered immediately, whether because the presenter doesn’t know the answer, or because more information is needed to give a proper response. It’s best to prepare for situations like this by establishing a few appropriate responses that reassure the audience that they will receive an answer in a timely fashion.
Elevator pitches are important, not just for people, but for businesses as well. A presenter must consider many things including the audience, message, and place when crafting a pitch, and provide value in less than a minute. Awkward physical and tonal cues can be off-putting, so practicing is crucial. When talking to potential clients, investors, or even partners, it’s vital to be prepared to give a pitch quickly and effectively.