Top 6 Elements of a Winning Elevator Pitch

Elevator pitches aren't just for elevators.  There are many situations where it's helpful to be able to summarize a proposal or the main benefits of your business.  Whether you're at a networking event, talking to a prospect, or pitching an opportunity to investors, you only have a few minutes or even seconds to make a powerful impression.  The following are six essential aspects of a persuasive elevator pitch. 

Build Your Confidence

If you don't believe in your proposal, no one else will either.  Confidence is not enough to win people over, of course.  However, it's a necessary first step.  Without much pitching experience, you'll probably feel more nervous than confident.  Practice your pitch in front of the mirror, into a mic, and in front of friends and colleagues.  This will help you improve your delivery.  Remember, though, that confidence isn't only about having the smoothness of an actor.  It's also about communicating enthusiasm and a genuine belief in what you're saying.  If you do this, you can be convincing even if people see you're a little jittery.

Make it Concise

One of the toughest aspects of pitching is that you have to describe your idea, which may have taken you years to refine, into a few brief talking points.  You also have to describe it in a way that's easy for someone completely unfamiliar with the concept to understand.  This takes plenty of thought and editing.  It's often easier if you write it out.  Start by summarizing your pitch in 200 words, then 100, then 50.  Try it out on people you know and ask for honest feedback.  Does it make sense to them? Is anything confusing?

Don't ever think of your pitch as a finished product.  Keep refining it as necessary.  Every time you pitch someone, honestly ask yourself what you can have done better.  You could even ask people who decline you to provide feedback on what turned them off. 

Engage With Your Audience

People usually talk about a pitch as though it is a one-way conversation.  It is a presentation, so you'll be doing most of the talking.  At the same time, you need to be alert for cues that your audience has questions or comments.  In fact, it helps if you actively engage them, so ask a few pointed questions.  For example, if you're pitching communication software, you might ask, "How many times have you had someone's voice break up in the middle of a call?"  Then explain how your product solves this problem.

Prepare For Objections

People are used to coming up with reasons not to try something new.  When you're talking to potential clients or investors, this is doubly true.  Rather than be sidelined by objections, you need to expect and even welcome them.  The key is to anticipate your audience's most likely objections.  In some cases, these can help point to genuine flaws in your idea that need addressing.  Overcoming objections is a challenge for anyone in sales.  With a pitch, however, you need to be especially alert and articulate in your responses.

Look at your proposal from the perspective of your audience.  Consider the main problems and complaints with similar products or services.  You need to be able to overcome the most common objections you're likely to encounter.  Of course, if you give your pitch often enough, you can better anticipate objections and respond accordingly.  However, it's even better if you have an effective response to skeptical questions from the get-go.

Include Social Proof and Relevant Data

Social proof, such as reviews, testimonials, and endorsements, help to convince your audience that your product or idea has credibility.  If you're in the early stage and don't have concrete social proof, you can include the results of market research that's relevant to your idea.  For example, if you're developing an app that provides up-to-date traffic information for commuters, you might cite the results of a survey on commuters' top concerns. 

Remove Clutter From Your Message

Decluttering your pitch is related to clarity.  One of the biggest challenges of elevator pitches is distilling your message down to essentials and removing everything else.  The following are examples of clutter that can weaken your pitch.

  • A long list of features.  Stick to the essentials such as what your product or service accomplishes.  There's no need to discuss every detail.  If you're pitching a tech product, focus on its function and problem-solving ability rather than on specs and features.

  • Jargon.  Using jargon and highly technical words makes it sound like you're trying too hard to impress and perhaps trying to cover up a lack of substance.  Stick to simple language.

  • Too much information. People don't want to hear your entire life story. At this point, they have no reason to care about you or your business. Nor do they need a lecture about the size of the industry.  If they're prospects or investors familiar with your industry, they're already familiar with your industry and its leading products.

 

An elevator pitch is a brief yet intense presentation that has the potential to change your fate in a matter of minutes.  It's worthwhile to prepare, practice, and make sure you're able to explain your idea clearly in a few well-chosen words.  As you gain experience, you'll find that your elevator pitches get smoother and more persuasive.