Guided Learning: Elevator Pitch

Situation sketch: You are standing in an elevator, when the CEO of an important company active in your field enters. For months, even years have you dreamed about working at that company and this is your moment to impress someone who might help you get a job there! As the doors close, you realize that you only have the duration of the elevator ride (30 seconds) to impress this person. Time starts now, GO!

Content and How to use

Delivering an inspiring so-called elevator pitch is one of the most difficult presentation settings there is. Luckily, there are approaches which can help you in creating your own pitch, and aid you in perfecting it. This guide will show you how to do this, and gives examples to support its effectiveness.

1) Preparation

Though unprepared speeches can appear spontaneous, it is highly risky and almost never succesful to minimally prepare your pitch. A good preparation will allow you to have more control over the situation: you know what to say, and how to. You will appear more organized and structured, qualities which are in general applauded.

Do not be afraid to write out your entire pitch, and amend it multiple times. Also be sure to bring along something you can hand out to people, like a business card. This way they will have something physical to remember you by.

 2) Structure

Your opening is important. If you open with a cliché, you will appear dull and predictable, if you force your audience’s attention, you will appear pushy and inconsiderate. You want your audience to have genuine interest in what you have to say.

One of the best ways to instill spontaneous interest in your audience, is to use a hook (also known as a twist). A hook is a (set of) sentence(s) which mostly surprises the audience and induces the need to know more. See commended public speaker Chris Westfall illustrate it.

If you want to know more about hooks, read this article, which provides hints and tips for creating your own hook.

While there are many successful approaches to elevator pitches,  a majority of pitches is built on a similar structure. The motivation behind the pitch is mostly based on a four-pronged set of perspectives: Your skills, your confidence in your abilities, your goal, and your motivation. You can base your pitch on any of these qualities, or even make up another basis for your pitch. Read more about it here.

Writing a compelling, witty or smart presentation is very difficult. That's why a very effective way to build a great pitch, is to adopt successful techniques from others. A lot can be learned from watching others, ranging from structures to vocal intonations and gestures. If you are at a loss for inspiration, do not be afraid to borrow some effective tricks from others. (For example, here is a list with theory and execution of successful pitches.)

3) Delivery

The delivery of your pitch is important: you can have constructed an amazing pitch in theory, if you cannot convey its message passionately and enthusiastically, you cannot make it work. This means that all of the 'standard' things important in presentations are valid for pitches as well. Your stance, your tone of voice, your hand gestures; all these things influence how your audience perceives you. (To read more about non-verbal communication and voice tonality, check here and here.)

4) Practice

Even great speakers who have an innate talent for speaking in public (e.g. Barack Obama), cannot thrive on their talent only. Their amazing speechwriters and their natural talent helps a lot, but nobody becomes a great speaker without practice. By spending hours and hours at speaking in public, they are able to sense the audience and perfect their approach.

The same goes for you. The key to perfecting your elevator pitch is practice. This can be done in multiple ways. You can practice by yourself, by performing your pitch in front of a mirror. You can also record yourself using a mobile phone or a dictaphone. This allows you to assess your own body language and tone of voice.

Even better is having someone else sit in and comment on your pitch. Others might be able to give advice on improvements and correct you on structure or non-verbal issues.