Top tips for perfecting your elevator pitch

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Whenever you attend a business event, whether it’s a networking breakfast or a trade show, an industry conference or an awards dinner, you have to be ready for the inevitable question: “So…what do you do?”  This is the moment of truth.  You never get a second chance to make a first impression - and how you answer that seemingly innocuous little question will determine whether you are forgotten or remembered (and remembered for the right reasons, not the wrong ones!).

Going up – this is me

The Americans, who have always been a few years ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to promoting themselves, had this thing figured out way back.  They coined the term “elevator pitch”.  This is the form of pre-prepared words you have on the tip of your tongue ready for when someone pops that common question.  Why call it an elevator pitch?  Because it must be so succinct and to the point that you can deliver it in an elevator as it travels between floors. 

As communications challenges go this is about as tough as it gets.  Hopefully these tips will help you come up with something that ticks a few of the right boxes.

Keep it brief

Attention spans are short – they don’t want your entire CV!  Also, it needs to be easy for you to memorise (not word for word, just the main points) and deliver. 

Have a 60 second version of 250-300 words (the one you deliver at a formal networking event where you are invited to tell the assembled company about your expertise or business).  But ideally you want a couple of shorter ones, including a single sentence.  Edit ruthlessly – less is definitely more!

Make it easy for people

Your audience have other things on their mind and they may be struggling to give you their full attention, so give them a job title they can relate to.  For instance, if you say “I’m a sales trainer” they can picture what you do and it provides a handy frame that holds your story together – they’ve got something to hang the detail on.  If, however, you say “I’m a customer experience enhancement consultant” you’ll have lost them before you even start!

Try to avoid industry jargon.  “I’m a UX specialist” might impress fellow marketing professionals but a lawyer or engineer will probably be puzzled.  Same goes for OT (Occupational Therapist), QS (Quantity Surveyor), PM (Project Manager) or Full Stack Developer (something to do with web design!).

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Relate it to your audience

People are primarily self-interested.  They will be a lot more excited about what you do if it has some relevance to them.  So, tell people what you do, but be very clear what’s in it for them.  Think features and benefits.  A feature is a fact about what you do.  A benefit is the value you provide. 

“I’m a management account” is a feature.  “I help business people gain better control of their finances, providing a more accurate and timely view of exactly how the business is doing and allowing them to take more informed decisions” is the benefit.  Benefits are a lot more engaging, meaningful and memorable than features – sell the benefits of what you do and tailor it to the listener.

Problems and solutions

A good way to sell the benefits of what you do is to describe a problem then explain how you solve it for people.  This makes it easier for them to understand what you do and picture the value.  Try to connect to real-life pain points your audience feels keenly.  So, if you offer computer support to micro businesses you might say something like “You know that feeling when your computer system crashes?  I’m the guy to call…”.  Or “Fed up with feeling unfit and overweight?  I’m a wellness and nutrition expert who helps busy people achieve a healthier lifestyle…”

Substantiate your claims

It’s much more powerful if you can back up your promise with some facts and figures.  For instance, “80% of the people who follow my diet plan keep the weight off for six months or more…”.  Or, “I wrote the website for a local campsite and the year after it went live bookings were up 400% and they had become the most popular site on”.

What’s your point of difference?

The world is full of financial advisors, wedding planners, business coaches, SEO consultants and web designers.  Try to find some way to stand out from the crowd.  It may be that you do something that is truly different – a business coach that specialises in creative and media businesses, or a web designer that can also create video content. 

Even if your offering is pretty standard you might be able to present it in a surprising way.  Take a look at Death & Taxes, an accountancy and book keeping consultancy run by Psyche Coderre - it’s a bit off the wall, but you’ll notice from the home page that they are not taking on any more clients, so their marketing must be working!

Don't wing it

Although an elevator pitch should come across as spontaneous you need to practice delivering it.  Sounds contradictory, but the more familiar you are with it the more confident you’ll be and the more natural it will come across.  So, run it past family and friends, or in front of a mirror, out loud.  One you’ve got it off pat you can improvise a bit and have some fun, without losing the thread. 

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Avoid overselling

Avoid overstating the benefits and coming across as arrogant.  This is especially true in Britain where the hard sell can seriously turn people off.  It’s probably best to avoid words like "disruptive", “paradigm”, “transformative”, “passionate” or "life-changing"!  A touch of self-depreciating humour tends to work a lot better.

Don't forget a call to action

Even the most informal elevator pitch involves a degree of discreet salesmanship and you may find that (surprise, surprise) that someone is keen to buy.  Be sure to wind up by giving listeners some way of contacting you.  Offer a business card or at least mention your web address.  If you are in a one-to-one situation and don’t want to appear pushy, just ask for their card.  They’ll probably reciprocate and ask for yours in return – but even if they don’t, you have their email if you want to keep in touch.

Let’s talk business

If you are thinking of organising a business event then Clevedon Hall could be the ideal venue.  Seminars, meetings, launches, teambuilding and corporate entertainment – there’s nowhere better!  Whatever you have in mind our expert staff will be happy to answer all your questions and share their experience.


Jim O'ConnorComment