Elevator Pitch: What’s in It for You

A friend posted a question just recently on LinkedIn: How can we succeed delivering our elevator pitch (or unique value proposition) to the average person, who are not always technically savvy?

That’s a good question indeed. Today, let’s talk about elevator pitches. What they are, why you need one (or many), and how to create it.

Let’s start from the beginning.

What’s an elevator pitch?

By Wikipedia’s definition, elevator pitch is

“…a short description of an idea, product or company that explains the concept in a way such that any listener can understand it in a short period of time. This description typically explains who the thing is for, what it does, why it is needed, and how it will get done. Finally, when explaining an individual person, the description generally explains one’s skills and goals, and why they would be a productive and beneficial person to have on a team or within a company or project. An elevator pitch does not have to include all of these components, but it usually does at least explain what the idea, product, company, or person is and their value.”


In the case of your personal elevator pitch, you talk about yourself marketing yourself as a product. Think about yourself and your story as a product that you market and build your personal marketing plan. I like that approach! After all, as Mehdi Rahman writes in his article for the Canadian Marketing Association initiative, you are the greatest product you’re ever going to market.

Remember that last ad that you actually watched till the end and enjoyed? Try to make your elevator pitch something like that ad: grabbing attention, interesting, inviting.

Harvard University instructor Carmine Gallo in his article for Harvard Business Review suggests that you start with a logline, one compelling sentence to grab listener’s attention. He further explains the importance of it: “When a listener doesn’t understand the overarching idea being presented in a pitch, they have a hard time digesting the information. A logline will help you paint the big picture for your audience.

So, don’t try to fit all your years of experience, achievements, and certifications into one pitch. Identify key aspects that constitute something that we, marketers, call UVP or Unique Value Proposition. What’s the most valuable and important part of your story that this particular listener can be interested in?

Elevator pitch: what to focus on?

The question that we started with, was “How can we succeed delivering our elevator pitch (or unique value proposition) to the average person, who are not always technically savvy?” This means, even if they are interested to learn about you it is not necessary that they can technically understand all the details.

Bill Flynn, best-selling author of Further Faster, business coach, and sought-after speaker, advices:

The goal is to get them to ask you how you do that. Then you get into technical details if that makes sense. Not before. They don’t care how you do it. They only care what can you do for them. They want to make progress and overcome struggles not hear how awesome you think you are. The goal of the elevator pitch is to generate interest, not close the deal.

Bill Flynn, author of Further Faster

My own answer was: Speak from their point of interest. If that’s a business owner or executive, tell them how you help generate business results. If that’s a sales person, say “I help drive leads that turn into buying customers N% of the time”. Actually that’s us, professionals, need to market ourselves by meeting them where they are and speaking their language.

In just several brief moments of your elevator pitch you won’t be able to give all the technical details of your expertise, but if you make them interested in how you can help them — you will have more time in the future.

So, in every case identify one thing that’s the most important to your audience and make it your logline. Another Harvard Business Review author, Jeffrey Hayzlett, recommends in his 2012 article that this initial “hook” should take around 8 seconds.

How long should an elevator pitch be?

And this brings us to the question of timing. The perfect timing for an elevator pitch is: the shorter the better. Its name suggests that it should not take longer than an elevator ride. Most of the coaches and trainers advise to keep it around thirty to forty five seconds.

In the same article where he recommends eight second hook, Jeffrey Hayzlett writes about 118 second elevator pitch which is roughly four times as long. But many recent researches find that human attention span is shrinking, so probably now it’s better to aim for shorter pitches.

How to prepare your elevator pitch

Before getting to pitch preparation, reassess the deeper value and personal Why’s which are the foundation of your personal brand. (In-depth reading: Your Deeper WHY: Where Your Personal Brand Starts)

  • Start with identifying several UVPs that you can use. Keep each of them short and sweet (remember 8 seconds rule).
  • Build compelling cases to support each of your loglines (22-37 seconds).
  • Analyze possible audiences: which of the pitches fit where?
  • Rehearse several times in front of the mirror.
  • Practice practice practice! Try your pitch at less important networking events prior to using it at an interview or a conference.

Do you have your own master elevator pitch? Share your tips in the comments!

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