The Elevator Pitch Is More Alive than Ever, as Long as You Get It Right

(as seen on Brandingmag)

In the fast-paced, trend-adopting scene of the marketing and advertising industries, the elevator pitch has been proclaimed dead. Of course, this is not an absolute statement, as some of us might radically oppose this standpoint. But for many, its very name triggers fantasies of conversations had over glasses of bourbon, in Manhattan top-floor offices during the 60s.

In today’s world, where attention spans are getting shorter and competition more diversified, the elevator pitch can be a handy tool to successfully get a point across. In fact, someone oblivious to its history could easily think that it’s a concept created specifically for these times; useful not only to raise seed money or sell your spread but to unload ideas within any arena of life. Whatever notion you “elevator-pitch” correctly automatically becomes simpler, more interesting, and more likely to be remembered.

The Elevator Pitch is a Power Pitch

An EP is a brief description of a product, idea, or company, delivered in a compelling and clear set of statements. Its purpose is to make it easier for the listener to understand and remember what is being said. Actually, its once-clever name explains it well enough: a pitch to be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride. But because it’s a loaded term, calling it differently might be helpful in depurating it from its context and reputation. The notion of “power pitch” (PP) can be quite inspiring and also describes its qualities well, so we’ll stick to that for the time being.

A power pitch can help you accomplish different objectives. Its immediate purpose is to capture the attention of your listener, which is the first step in moving any type of transaction, referral, negotiation, agreement, or sale forward. That’s why a finely crafted one can potentially drive the listener to take action: request more information, make a referral, get in touch, purchase, etc.

You Think You Know (but You Have No Idea)

Upon hearing its definition, people tend to assert that they’ve never actually written one but already know what theirs is. They think that being familiar with an idea, a business, or an occupation, is enough to explain it clearly. This leads to many brilliant investors, talented professionals, and competent business owners, delivering bad pitches without even knowing. It’s not easy to realize that what you are trying to say is not clear or compelling enough. If you are not aware of the signs or aren’t actively asking for feedback, no one will ever let you know.

elevator pitch
Image by Daniel Mingook Kim

There are endless reasons why a power pitch might not be optimal or cause the desired effect. If you get caught off-guard or are too eager (and anxious) to make a good impression, you’ll end up stuttering and over-explaining. If you are not clear about what you want to accomplish, it might be too bland or not include all the necessary information. If you don’t know your audience well, you’ll fail to engage them. If you include too much detail, it’ll be too long and boring. If you want to sound overly casual, you might make inefficient improvisations. This is proof enough of why making the effort to write a great statement and taking the time to learn it are essential.

How to draft a powerful power pitch

Because of its length and structure, a PP tends to have a single and very specific objective. It’s unlikely to have one single statement that caters to many audiences and serves varied purposes at the same time. However, they always tend to answer basic questions, like “what”, “why”, and “for whom”. It’s essential to be able to choose the right ones based on the specific objective we want to achieve in each case. Take these things into consideration when writing your draft:

1. Define your audience
You don’t usually want to deliver the same information about your business to investors, friends, and potential clients. This is why having multiple PPs is always a good idea. You might even find that, from time to time, you’ll want to tweak one of your custom statements for an even more specific audience. For example, if yoga teachers are one of your several target markets and you attend a yoga festival, you might want to tailor the pitch you had previously created for all potential customers for event attendees.

2. Define your purpose
The immediate goal of all elevator pitches is to engage the listener, but the actual objective is to make them take action. Knowing what that action is will help you craft more effective PPs from the beginning. You might want potential clients to visit your website, investors to fund your business, and friends and relatives to be able to recommend your services appropriately (or to stop repeatedly asking you what you do for a living).

3. Include all (and only) the essentials
Always write your power pitches as if you were a startup: straightforward, clear, and unpretentious. They allow you to answer the most relevant, elemental questions about your business before they even come up: What do you do? How is it different? Why is it important? Why do you think it’ll work? What problems does it solve? Why should I believe you? Make sure to choose only the most relevant questions based on your target audience, so that your pitch is not too long.

4. Make it simple, memorable, and snappy
Try to use clear language and avoid industry jargon, unless they are very relevant. You can also add an engaging opening or closing question when appropriate. Some people say that your PP should be less than thirty seconds long, but that depends on the circumstance; in some situations, slightly longer ones might be beneficial. As a rule of thumb, shorter is better.

5. Leave room for more
The PP has to tease the audience and make them curious. Find the perfect balance between not saying too much and not saying too little. This will enable questions, conversation, and lingering thoughts about what you said. Independently of your desired outcome, this might make some of your listeners reach out to get more information further down the line.

The Inverted Pyramid Method

This is a simple formula that can help you consistently design the structure of more efficient pitches. It’s based on drafting each sentence individually and arranging them in order of priority – from high to low. This ensures that even if your listener switches off after ten seconds, he’s heard the most important part of your pitch.

The first sentence serves as the sturdy “base” of the pyramid. That’s why it has to include the most relevant information. It’ll usually answer the fundamental “what” questions for your audience: What do you do? What’s your product, idea, or business? If what you are presenting has an innovative aspect, solves a very specific or relevant problem, or is for a niche target market, and this information is relevant to your listener, you can add that too. But keep in mind that the sentence should not be too long or complicated. Here are two good examples:

“I designed a tiny adhesive patch that starts correcting your posture from the moment you stick it on.”
Questions answered: What is the product? What problem does it solve?

“My company creates customized investment strategies for young people who have just started their professional careers.”
Questions answered:
What do you do? Who is it for?

The rest of the sentences often answer more “what”, “how”, or “why” questions, like: How do you do it differently? How will you solve the problem? Why are you qualified to do this? Why should I believe you? Why is it relevant? The information you decide to include in each sentence will depend on your specific objectives and what you deem to be your audience’s predominant interests.

Here’s an example of a good power pitch created using the inverted pyramid method. Its objective was to introduce a Spanish language-learning app for children to parents who are already interested in their kids acquiring a new language.

“We created a Spanish-learning app for children that solves two problems of similar products: lack of engagement and outdated, inefficient methodologies. Our app uses a unique and tested rhythm-based method integrated into beautiful interactive stories that keep the child relaxed and engaged; while he’s unawarely and effortlessly acquiring Spanish vocabulary and grammar skills.”

The main objectives were defined based on the target audience: to explain what the product is, how it works, and how it is different from similar products. If, for example, the audience group was made of parents who were not specifically looking for language-learning products, the PP would have also needed to explain why this topic could be relevant to them and their children.

Delivering like a boss

The oral presentation is another essential part of the process. A weak performance can completely ruin all the efforts you’ve put into writing a solid statement. Once you feel like you’re ready to test your pitch, use these tips to sharpen your oral skills.

To sound spontaneous, practicing a confident-but-casual tone is ideal in the type of situations in which you’ll use your pitch. It can’t be too slow nor too fast, and it has to feel easygoing and relaxed. Make sure to memorize your pitch but don’t just regurgitate it like a robot when the time comes, and prepare yourself for interactions and questions too. The only way to master all this is to practice!

Tweak and iterate, the first version doesn’t need to be perfect. Rehearse your PP in front of friends and ask for objective feedback; then test it in the field and observe people’s reactions to it. Iterate accordingly and try again until it gets the response you want.

Link it to data and news for enhanced engagement. If current events or impacting statistics can make your case more compelling and relevant, add them to your pitch. You can attach them to the beginning with a question like: Did you know that…? Let’s use the case of the Spanish app as an example; but this time, aimed at parents who are not looking for a language-learning solution. In that case, it’d be very important to make them realize why it’d be a good idea for their children to learn Spanish. This would be a relevant statistic turned into an opening question: Did you know that by the year 2050, the US will have more Spanish speakers than any other country in the world?

elevator pitch
Image by Korney Violin, Unsplash.

Power-pitch your life

Despite the passing of time, the good old elevator pitch (power pitch) continues to be a strong tool to deliver important ideas. More than a marketing concept or a sales strategy, it’s a practical way of organizing and communicating important information in a way that makes it digestible. If we learn to do it properly and adapt it to the environment, it can be applied in many creative and purposeful ways. Use it to sell your next venture to a potential business partner. Use it to convince your six-year-old to give vegetables a second chance. Use it to gain the clarity you need to make an important decision. In any situation where there is a central point to put forward and an objective to accomplish, the elevator pitch can be the key to a more successful outcome.

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