5 Rules for Writing an Exceptional Elevator Pitch

Business Man Elevator PitchFor a small business owner, a simple chance conversation can be an opportunity to drum up new business for your company. Asking what someone does for a living is part of a polite conversation, and it gives you the opportunity to give your elevator pitch. If you aren’t familiar with the terminology, an elevator pitch is just a brief explanation of what you do — and how you can help your audience.

For those of you who are just creating an elevator pitch, or for anyone who wants to improve their current version, we’ve put together a list of 5 rules for creating an elevator pitch that rises above the rest. Here’s the list:

1. Explain your business in two lines

You have only a moment to explain what you do, but it can be hard to pare down an explanation to the details. Try starting with only a minimal explanation of just two lines. Focus on writing down what is unique about your business. You don’t need a perfectly formatted document; this draft is to get you to eliminate unnecessary words.

While you should mention what you do, how your business helps is actually more important than your particular methods. A professional speaker, for instance, wouldn’t just say that he gets up on a stage and talks. Instead, his pitch might include an explanation of the fact that he motivates employees to focus on quality — or whatever his speaking is supposed to achieve.

2. Add some excitement

If you aren’t excited about what you do, there’s no reason anyone else should get excited either. There was some sort of passion that lead you to get involved with your business; let it show through. In some cases, your reasons may be your elevator pitch.

Do you see a particular need for your services? Focus on that need, and a passionate pitch might just write itself. Results are another easy way to get excited about your business. Think about the numbers you celebrate — the milestones for your business.

3. Test your pitch

Find a few people that will listen to your pitch and give you feedback. Ask them what terms they didn’t recognize, where it was boring and where it was exciting.

Your listeners’ questions about your pitch are especially important. You don’t necessarily want to answer every question about your business in your pitch — getting prospective customers to ask a few questions is a great way to hook them — but if a test subject has no idea what you do after listening to your pitch, it’s back to the drawing board. It may take a couple of tries to come up with a pitch if your business isn’t particularly common.

4. Adapt to the situation

You don’t give your elevator pitch in a vacuum. It’s always part of a conversation. Your conversational partner probably has some specific needs that your company can help with — and he or she may have already described them as part of the conversation.

If you’ve already heard those specific needs, respond to them. Tell your listener exactly what you can do to help him; being specific is what can take an elevator pitch from the “I’ll be in touch” level to the “I’m calling you first when I get back to the office” level.

5. Be open to change

I actually learned this trick during a high school science fair: I was giving a pitch about my project to a judge and he asked a couple of questions that seemed pretty important. I started incorporating his questions, along with the answers, in my pitch. I’m pretty sure that it was that small change to my pitch that landed me a prize.

Your elevator pitch is not carved in stone. If you come across a better explanation of what you do, you ought to include it in your pitch. It’s even worthwhile to test out multiple versions of your elevator pitch and make changes based on the result. And if your business changes, it’s important to make sure that your elevator pitch reflects those changes.

So, how well have you done with your elevator pitch? Have you followed these rules—or do you have your own suggestions?

Reader Comments

Aug. 26. 2008 7:35 PM

Whoa, I Googled “elevator pitch” just minutes before I checked my feeds. Thank you for your good timing. :)

Mason Hipp
Aug. 27. 2008 11:59 AM

Hi Kerrie,

Glad we could be of assistance :-) I hope you enjoyed the article.

- Mason

Will Ayers
Aug. 28. 2008 1:57 PM

What a simple yet very useful way of making a new contact or business opportunity. Great article.

Sep. 5. 2008 6:21 PM

Great post.  Like many, I froze at the thought of creating an elevator pitch.  It’s like staring at a blank sheet of paper knowing you need to fill it with something that is dazzling.  I found though that I was stumbling through my words when trying to explain to someone what I do.

I found a great free tool that helped me develop an elevator pitch - http://www.15secondpitch.com.  A pitch wizard takes asks five simple questions and creates an elevator pitch. 

I didn’t stick with what the wizard initially created.  My pitch went through many changes and will again and again.  The payoff is that the initial pitch gets your mental gears turning.  You are no longer staring at the blank sheet of paper.  Oh, and it’s free!

Lauren Mantegna
Oct. 26. 2011 1:59 PM

Wow, I searched elevator speech because I have to present one next month in class and this article was a top hit!

Thank you!

Nov. 2. 2011 2:53 AM

A great elevator pitch can work brilliantly if it is succinct.  People have short attention spans so you’d better be able to get your message across fast.

Jan. 5. 2012 4:46 AM

Keeping an elevator pitch in two lines can be quite a hard thing to do, especially if you are working in a highly technical industry. Anything relating to IT or engineering can be quite hard to explain. However, it can be done. If you find signs that your listener if being confused, you need to rework on your two line delivery from scratch.

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May. 26. 2013 11:52 PM

pitches are important and a great place to practice them is in the elevator when the boss comes in be prepared :)

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