The Pitch is Back


The Pitch is Back


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The term the “elevator pitch” describes a situation where you find yourself in an elevator with a prospective employer, client or business associate. As you travel between the floors, you have a limited time to the describe yourself, your project or investment opportunity.

The elevator pitch is often seen as a chance for a sale, a tell-all opportunity to impart as much information as possible on the potential buyer. Too often, people see the elevator pitch as a chance to launch a deal-making spiel or blurt out a stream of data or incongruous facts and figures.

Instead, let’s reframe the elevator pitch as an opportunity to start a conversation. Ultimately, you want the other person to be intrigued enough to ask more questions or seek more information. The way to do that? Tell a compelling story.


What’s Your Story?

A few years ago, a research study prompted much hand-wringing when it revealed that social media and smartphones had reduced our attention spans to less than eight seconds. The implication? Goldfish had longer attention spans than humans. Of course, the study was debunked. More recently, a 2018 survey of 2,000 adults found that our attention spans aren’t getting shorter, they’re simply evolving. With so many distractions, we’re more selective about what we pay attention to. The survey found that engagement levels among 88% of respondents were higher when they were told a story.

It’s hardly surprising really. After all, we’re hardwired from an early age to hear stories and the beginning-middle-end narrative structure is ingrained in our psyches. We use this storytelling structure as the basis for framing our four-step elevator pitch.


1. Establish Your Character

Every good story needs a compelling central character. And in an elevator pitch, that character is you. You need to be engaging and enthusiastic and explain from the outset what motivates or excites you and what your passions are. As motivational speaker and author Simon Sinek writes in his 2009 best-selling book Start with Why, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

This means starting the pitch with a declarative statement that tells the listener what you stand for.

I’m passionate about sustainability.”

I’m committed to introducing wellness in the workplace.”

I believe in creating efficient systems for that benefit all employees.”


2. Add some conflict

Your next goal is to pose a problem that you suspect they might identify with. To generate engagement and spark the conversation, frame this problem as a question.

“Have you noticed how employees lack motivation when…”

“You know how everyone wants a piece of the China market but they’re unsure about how to go about it?”

Once you’ve outlined the problem, explain how your company provides the solution. What value do you bring to organizations? How does your product or service make a difference to others?


3. Thicken the plot

Identify what makes you stand out from your competitors. Select two differences and illustrate how these distinguish you in the market.


4. Bring some resolution

Bring the pitch to a close by making a call to action. Request a meeting or initiate further discussion. Better yet, turn the conversation to them by asking a question.

“Does this sound familiar? Does your firm have a similar problem? How do you solve it?”

Of course, while this is all good in theory, truth is you’ll need to rehearse your pitch to make it sound conversational, relaxed and engaging. But it’s worth being ready with your pitch because, as the saying goes, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”


Paul Caulder

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