How to Master the Art of the Elevator Pitch

What do you do?

Tell me about yourself.

Have you prepared your personal pitch? You’ve probably heard it more commonly called an elevator pitch because it should be about the length of a brief elevator ride—under a minute. I like the definition that David Lewis and G. Rilley Mills use in their book The Pin Drop Principle: Captivate, Influence, and Communicate Better Using the Time-Tested Methods of Professional Performers. They refer to the elevator pitch as a “positioning statement” and say, “A positioning statement is a short, compelling description of your company, product, or service—and its benefit—that can be communicated in a few sentences.” Let’s look at the advice of a few more elevator pitch experts to help you be prepared to give this mini speech at any given moment.

Be Conversational

Keep in mind that most elevator pitches take place during the course of casual conversation, so the tone of your pitch should match that. You don’t want it to feel formal or rehearsed or overly aggressive. Keep it light and friendly. Be enthusiastic, but not so much that it feels insincere. Do all the things you do in a regular one-on-one conversation to help someone trust and like you: smile, make good eye contact, and use open body language (keep your hands out of your pockets, uncross your arms, and turn your body towards the other person). Author of Winning Body Language: Control the Conversation, Command Attention, and Convey the Right Message—Without Saying a Word, Mark Bowden says, “Remember that potentially 55 percent of the feeling that people have about another person’s intentions is based on what they see—and they can detect every tiny nuance of movement, tension, and rhythm in the other person’s face and body unconsciously.” So as you pitch yourself, remember that your body language is just as important as your words.

Use A Problem/Solution Format

In his book So What: How to Communicate What Really Matters to Your Audience, Mark Magnacca says you should frame your elevator pitch by identifying a problem and showing how you or your company offers a solution to that problem. For example, you might say, “I’m a presentation coach at a company called Presentation Mentor. You know how so many people are afraid of public speaking? Well, we help our clients overcome their fears and master the art of presenting through theory-based courses, practice, and individual feedback.” When you show how your work is helping to solve a problem, it makes it appear that much more valuable.

Ask a Question

To continue the conversation and engage the other person, be prepared to follow your elevator pitch with an open-ended question (one that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” response). To follow the example above, you might ask, “How often do you give presentations in your current role?” Then listen actively and respond thoughtfully. Also, be prepared to give the person your business card so he can get in touch with you or your company in the future. Close the interaction with a smile and a simple conclusion like, "It was nice to meet you” or “You’ve got my number if you’d like to continue our conversation.” 

Once you’ve prepared your elevator pitch, spend some time practicing it just like you would any other presentation. That way, when the moment comes, you are ready and can present yourself with clarity and poise. But remember to keep it warm and conversational, adapting to the nuances of each unique communication experience.

From elevator pitches to the big presentations, we believe proper training and preparation makes all the difference in your success. We’d love to help you master the art of presentation. Ready to get started?

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