If we were to tell you that a 40-second encounter has the potential to change your career path or jumpstart your business idea, you probably wouldn’t believe us, right?
Well, we’re telling you just that!
Sometimes, for a short window of time, we end up in the right place, at the right time, with the right person (and no, we’re not talking about your romantic life).
Those seconds are enough to explain your business idea to an investor or describe your company to a potential client.
Knowing how to take advantage of that time - aka, knowing how to give an elevator pitch - can make or break a deal.
In this article, you’ll find all you need to know in order to deliver a top-notch elevator pitch and not let any opportunities slip.
- What’s an Elevator Pitch?
- Most Common Uses for an Elevator Pitch
- How to Craft an Elevator Pitch (with steps)
- Dos and Don’ts
- 5 Elevator Pitch Examples
So, let’s not waste any time and get right to it!
What’s an Elevator Pitch?
An elevator pitch is a concentrated summary of yourself, your job, your company, or your business idea. A trailer, if you will.
The point is to inform your audience and potentially land a job position, investor, or simply expand your network.
You should be able to deliver a pitch in the time of a short elevator ride (between 30 and 60 seconds), hence its name.
Most Common Uses for an Elevator Pitch
Elevator pitches are crafted for short (sometimes unexpected) encounters: a one-station metro ride with an old client, coffee break at the office with a coworker from another department, a chat with a superior right before a meeting.
Situations in which you don’t have time to think and they don’t have time to listen.
However, it can come in handy in plenty of other situations as well, like:
- Selling a product or service. A well-crafted and concise pitch grabs the buyer’s attention and can lead to a successful sale.
- Looking for a job. Whether it’s your LinkedIn summary or a conversation with a recruiter at a job fair, a good pitch will introduce you and your skills in a brief and impactful way.
- At a job interview. When answering an interview question like “Tell me about yourself”, you’re basically doing an elevator pitch.
- In a work event. Networking and having connections have become crucial in the job market. During events, having some pitches in your pocket will allow you to have brief but memorable conversations with plenty of people and expand your network.
- Giving a presentation. Your audience will probably stay for all of the presentations, even if it’s way longer than 30 seconds. However, there’s no guarantee they will listen. Delivering a summarizing pitch before the presentation will grab the audience’s attention and spark curiosity as to what you will be presenting.
How to Craft an Elevator Pitch
When you think about it, an elevator speech might not seem all that difficult at first.
After all, It’s just 30-60 seconds - that’s 75-150 words max, right.
Well, the short length of the speech is exactly the problem.
The difficulty and success of a pitch lies in being able to compress a lot of information in only a few structured sentences.
That’s far from easy, but it’s nothing you can’t master.
Here’s what steps you should follow when preparing any elevator pitch.
Step #1 - Have a clear goal
Say, you’re representing a newly-started business.
If you’re giving a pitch to a potential investor your goal is to convince them that your business is a good investment. Talk about what problem your product solves, what your customer base is, how big your potential market is, and your expected profits.
If you’re giving a pitch to a prospective client, your goal is to convince them to buy your product. How would they benefit from buying it? Why is it better than its competitors?
Knowing the exact purpose of your pitch will make it easier for you to select what information to include in your elevator pitch.
It’ll also help you avoid steering off track and getting into unnecessary details.
Step #2 - Explain who you are/What you do
This is what’s going to grab (or lose) the attention of your listener.
Your answer should follow a past-present-future structure. It’s easier for you to put together, and at the same time, easier for your audience to follow.
If you’re presenting your company, briefly go over why it was created, what it does, and what are its prospects for the future.
If you’re talking about yourself, give some background information on education or previous work experiences, what you do now, and what your career goals are.
This information should make up about 50% of your answer, which means you should compress it into 35 - 75 words. That’s like 2-4 sentences only!
Step #3 - What’s special about it?
Now, this is where you lay down your case after you have the listener’s attention.
This is where you talk about your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
What does your company do that sets it apart from its competitors? What makes you the best candidate for the job?
Go for the most interesting and memorable pieces of information and don’t be afraid to talk numbers as well.
This is what the listener will probably remember most out of the conversation, so put a lot of thought into what you will be presenting.
“Hi, I’m Jane. I’m a fine arts graduate, currently working as a designer.
I’ve previously worked as creative director for M's clothing brand for 3 years. During that time, I oversaw the release of two collections and directed the photoshoot sessions for both of them. I also worked as creative director for B magazine for 2 years and E-magazine for 3 years. I directed multiple photoshoots and marketing projects, releasing 25 magazine covers in total and 3 video campaigns.
I’m currently looking to expand my portfolio and get into the branding industry, which is why I decided to apply for this position.”
“Hi, I’m Jane. I’m a fine arts graduate, currently working as a designer.
I have experience working as a creative director for a clothing brand and some magazines. I’m currently looking to expand my portfolio and get into the branding industry, which is why I decided to apply for this position.”
Step #4 - Engage the audience
Imagine wrapping up your pitch and then… silence. That makes for one awkward interaction, quite the opposite of what you’re aiming for.
To avoid that, end your pitch with a question or statement that will engage the other side with a reply.
You can ask for a meeting, show curiosity about the company, or simply express your desire to work there. You can even ask for mentorship.
This leaves room for the conversation to go on (as much as the elevator ride will allow) and for contact to be established between you and the listener.
“Hello there! I’m John, I work for YY. We provide accounting software primarily for small and medium-sized businesses like yours.
The software completely changes your experience with invoices and billing. What’s special about it is that it will also provide you with an insightful financial report on your business. You’ll know exactly how your business is performing.
What software does your company currently use, if I may ask?”
“Hi, my name is John and I work for XY, a software company aiming to help businesses like yours.
Our software assists you with invoices and billing, provides tools for accurate accounting, and gives you timely detailed reports on your business’s performance. It really is great!”
Step #5 - Practice and practice again
First round of practice is about getting the answer right.
You’re going to need to do a lot of revision to your pitch, each time cutting some information until you get to the right answer-length.
Second round is about memorizing what you initially laid out.
All this effort would be for nothing if you don’t remember your points and steer off track when it’s time to use your pitch.
Record your pitch and listen to it after a while. Pay attention to your tone and see if you have succeeded in making a convincing statement.
DOs and DON’Ts of an Elevator Pitch
You can use an elevator pitch for a lot of different reasons, usually making some changes to fit your purpose.
However, here are some tips to keep in mind when giving any kind of pitch.
Tailor your pitch to your audience.
Even if you’re interviewing for the same position, your answers to interview questions should differ depending on if you’re talking to your CEO or a recruiter.
Keep a positive attitude.
Chances of you being convincing if you’re sporting a frown and monotonous voice are very very low.
Make it easy to understand.
This is not the time to use big SAT words or get technical with your explanation. Remember - your pitch is supposed to have a conversational tone, so stay away from complicated sentences.
You might be tempted to speak faster in order to include as much information as possible in your pitch. Don’t! It’s just going to confuse your audience.
The idea is to rehearse a lot, but not to sound like it. A robotic answer that lacks passion won’t get you the job or the client.
Having a business card to give at the end of the interaction is a great move. The other person will have a piece of reference to contact you!
5 Elevator Pitch Examples
...And that’s a wrap for all the theory!
Now, let’s cover some real-life elevator pitch examples, starting with:
#1. Sales Elevator Pitch Example
“Hello! Thank you for showing interest in our company’s services.
XYZ is a tech recruitment company, helping organizations such as yours source the best developer talent. Vice versa, we also help professionals find the right job opportunities for them.
As of last year’s data, we successfully helped fill more than 2000 job positions - and that’s only for Massachusetts and Connecticut! We will be expanding in New York and Pennsylvania this year, providing a larger pool of opportunities for both employers and professionals.
How does your company currently recruit employees?”
#2. Job Interview Elevator Pitch Example
“Hi! My name is Jane. I’m glad to be here.
I graduated in business administration 7 years ago. Since then, I have held positions as an administrative assistant, sales agent, and for the last 3 years, sales manager.
So far I’ve only managed small-sized teams of agents. Quite successfully, if I can say so - we always met or exceeded sales targets.
I’d love to have the opportunity to advance in this area and manage a larger sales team, and this position seems like the perfect opportunity to do so.”
#3. Work Event Elevator Pitch Example
“Hello! I’m John Doe. I think we corresponded on the phone together to schedule a meeting between our bosses. Jane, am I right?
I was an intern at the time and I recently earned a full position as an administrative assistant. We’ll probably be communicating again in the future so I thought I’d come to say hi.
How’s work been going for you?”
#4. Presentation Elevator Pitch Example
“Hello everybody. You probably know what we’ll be talking about today, but I’ll give you a brief summary before we begin as well.
As many things, the retail industry was also greatly affected by the pandemic. Production was interrupted, fashion shows canceled, and many brands, unfortunately, had to file for bankruptcy. This has left the industry with a lot of uncertainties as to what the future will bring. We will be discussing some possibilities today, as well as analyzing some of the online strategies that were followed by some brands and how they could end up bringing permanent changes.
Let me know if you are ready to begin!”
#5. Seeking Mentorship Elevator Pitch Example
“Hi, my name is Jane Doe, I’m a journalism graduate. For the past year, I’ve been covering political news for Y local newspaper. I’ve also had two opinion essay pieces published at the prestigious Z. I am a great admirer of your work, especially your coverage of elections.
Yours is a path which I aim to follow and I would love to discuss with you the possibility of a mentorship. I have been working on a book on the side and your guidance and opinion would mean a lot to me.”
You made it to the end! No elevator encounter can scare you off now.
Let’s do a short recap with the most important tips to remember.
- Know your audience. Your goal will differ with each audience. Know exactly what you’re trying to convince them of and focus only on the relevant information.
- Be brief - between 30-60 seconds. Less than that, it won’t make sense. More than that, you’ll lose the audience’s attention.
- Follow the past-present-future structure. That will help you put your answer together more easily.
- Mention something unique. That’s your selling point, the memorable part of the conversation.
All that’s left to say is: practice your answers and make the most out of every second. Literally.