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How to create a great elevator pitch

A great elevator pitch is a must-have in any entrepreneur’s toolbox. It’s extremely useful in both impromptu and planned encounters with investors, customers, and partners. Therefore, it’s critical that you learn how to create an effective elevator pitch for your startup, and for yourself.

The purpose of an elevator pitch is to answer the basic question of “what do you do?”, or “what does your company do?”. The goal is to generate enough interest with your audience that will lead to a more in-depth discussion.

The unique constraints of an elevator pitch are the very limited amount of time (and attention) that you have to deliver it, the need to do it with no audio or visual aids, and in any location and setup. You may meet an investor at a conference, a demo day, or by coincidence at a cafe or an airport lounge.

Therefore, to be effective, a great elevator pitch needs to be short and to the point, but also leave the listener with a strong interest to learn more. In my roles as an entrepreneur, CEO, and mentor to startups in the MassChallenge program, I’ve created and helped create dozens of elevator pitches. Based on that experience, I’ve put together the following guidelines and tips for creating a great elevator pitch.

The pitch outline

Every good elevator pitch should be built on the foundation of these elements:

  1. Introduction: Your name and job title and your company name and what you do.
  2. What is the problem you’re solving and for whom?
  3. What is your solution?
  4. What is your value proposition?
  5. A call to action.

How to deliver your elevator pitch

1. Time it.

Typically, the goal is to give your elevator pitch in no more than 30 seconds. And yet, if your pitch is engaging and captures your audience’s interest, it can be a bit longer. But never more than 1 minute. So, before giving your pitch, present it to friends, and co-workers, and ask them to time it for you.

2. Practice, practice, practice.

Practice your elevator pitch 100 times or more, until every sentence and every word feels right and flows easily and correctly. I highly recommend practicing in front of the mirror. It may feel silly at first, but it can help you with facial expressions, body language, timing, and confidence. The more prepared you will be, the more confident you will feel. And the more confident you are the more comfortable you will feel. That will reflect in your delivery and body language and will affect your audience’s impression and response.

3. Speak clearly and slowly.

Knowing that you don’t have a lot of time to give this pitch, you may be tempted to talk fast to get more content in. However, talking too fast is a big no-no when delivering an elevator pitch. If you speak too quickly, it can be difficult for your audience to understand what you’re saying. So, slow yourself to the point that it feels like you’re talking deliberately slow. In addition, make sure to pronounce each word clearly and correctly.

4. Be conversational.

It’s also important to be conversational. A good salesperson never sounds like they’re selling something, but as if they’re having a conversation with a friend. So use simple words and short sentences. And avoid technical jargon and buzz words.

5. Let your passion show.

People want to do business with people they like and trust. When you deliver your elevator pitch, it’s important to smile and let your passion be felt. Your message should come across in a way that shows you’re passionate about what you’re doing and that you’re a trusted source. Be authentic.

6. Test and tweak.

As the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Your elevator pitch may not lead to an extended conversation the first time or even the third time you give it. After each time, see what worked and what didn’t, make the necessary changes, and continue to test it repeatedly.

Additional tips

  • Be succinct – short and to the point!
  • Use simple words and short sentences. That will help you deliver your pitch better, and will help your audience better understand your message.
  • Make it memorable. Use an example, analogy, or story that will make you and your pitch exceptional.

Lastly, once you have an elevator pitch that works, it’s good to make several versions of it, including one for customers, one for partners, etc. Because it’s always important to have a great response to the question: “what do you do?”.


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