Crafting an Elevator Pitch

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - 21:12

By Leon Gettler

What’s the elevator pitch? It’s the green light for you to let loose about your amazing idea that’s going to change the world. Get it right, and everything will fall into place for you as a manager. But a delivery that fails to capture attention means your great idea is unlikely to see the light of day. So what are the secrets behind a great elevator pitch?

The Mind Tools site has a great step-by-step guide. First, and most obviously, is to identify your goal. What exactly do you want to achieve? Then, start your pitch by describing what you do, focusing on the problems that you solve and how you help people. If you can, add information or a statistic that shows the value in what you do. What sort of productivity improvement was there? How much did it improve sale? And then , comes the USP (Unique Selling Proposition), which identifies what makes the idea so valuable and rare. After that, it is a good idea to engage in a question, one that’s open-ended and can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no” answer. Do that, and your foot is in the door.

The people at Mind Tools also advise managers to practise it until they get it right. “Like anything else, practice makes perfect. Remember, how you say it is just as important as what you say. If you don’t practice, it’s likely that you’ll talk too fast, sound unnatural, or forget important elements of your pitch. Set a goal to practice your pitch regularly. The more you practice, the more natural your pitch will become. You want it to sound like a smooth conversation, not an aggressive sales pitch. Make sure that you’re aware of your body language as you talk, which conveys just as much information to the listener as your words do. Practise in front of a mirror or, better yet, in front of colleagues until the pitch feels natural.”

Alicia Ciccone at the Huffington Post reminds us that the pitch is about presenting the idea, it’s not about closing the deal, that comes later. Taking people from beginning to end will likely leave them overwhelmed with information, and generally uninterested. Also, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Someone has to do it. It’s not bragging if it’s true and relevant. Also, have multiple versions prepared.

Whether you’re at an event, an impromptu meeting or in a boardroom, you have to be able to modify your pitch to fit the environment and the audience. Another good idea is to capture it on video. These days, it can be done cheaply and shot from just about anywhere, thanks to user-friendly phone technology and programs like iMovie. It is something the other person can take away with them. And besides, it creates discipline that will force you to make your delivery razor sharp. Michael Schrage at the Harvard Business Review suggests you can even do it on your smart phone and then hand it around.

Other advice includes keeping it short, having a hook, pitching yourself and highlighting what you’ve done – the concrete accomplishments or skills – rather than some intangible concept or a future goal, keeping a lid on statistics and technical information, and practising it, including writing it all down.