Here's Why (and How) to Scrap Your Elevator Pitch

Have you ever been advised to create a memorized elevator pitch touting the features and benefits of your products and services? Do you know the best way to deliver an elevator speech? (Hint: it may be not at all!) Maybe it's time to scrap your elevator speech and rethink how to best professionally introduce yourself.

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read
Episode #332

In business we often hear about the need for an “elevator pitch” or "elevator speech." You are told: Imagine yourself in an elevator with someone and you only have that short ride to make an impression. The idea is to make a brief statement or speech to gain his or her interest and attention. Being able to deliver a concise, compelling message that gains the attention of each specific person you meet is a tall order.

In fact, when I interviewed Jeremy Donovan, author of How to Deliver a TED Talk, he stated that if you can’t express your message in under twelve words, you don’t know what you’re talking about ... and I agree! 

Can you express what you do in an interesting way under twelve words? Try it. It's not as easy as it sounds.

Time invested in thinking about your message is important because the ability to talk about your company in a clear, concise, compelling manner opens the door for further communication and possible collaboration. So what should you include when you are introducing yourself and your products and services? Here are some tips to help you reach this important goal. 

What to Include in a Elevator Speech

  1. How you help people or businesses (think about the value you bring to others—what problem do you solve?)
  2. Why you’re different or the best (your unique value proposition)
  3. What methods you use to help (how you do what you do)
  4. Your full name (and area of expertise if appropriate)
  5. A call to action (only used in certain instances)
  6. Client stories (examples of ideal customers)
  7. Foundation story (why you do what you do)

Most importantly, when you craft your introduction (aka elevator pitch) be sure to craft it from the perspective of the other person. How can you help HIM? How can you make HER job easier or HE work more effective/successful? It’s not about you. That’s key to remember. The focus must be on your conversation partner. If you remember one thing about the perfect elevator speech, remember my advice (which by the way applies to most communication situations): it's not about YOU, it's about THEM!  

Equally important, is how to give your elevator speech. Most of us will never find ourselves in an elevator with someone who asks, “So, what do you do?” And rarely, if ever, will you have 2-3 uninterrupted minutes to spout off rehearsed messages that we may or may not remember exactly. But we may find ourselves at networking events, social functions, train or plane rides, having conversations. So instead of creating a fixed feature/benefit message you repeat over and over again, the idea then is to create a few short sound bites, anecdotes, and stories for each of the seven elements above. (You'll need different sound-bites for the different types of people you typically interact with.) Then as the conversation progresses, you'll incorporate the best messages and stories (you've given thought to ahead of time) in a manner that will resonate with that particular conversation partner. It's a conversation that includes mostly stories with a few facts for credibility and support.

I once attended a networking event with a woman who went from person to person, even to small groups of people chatting happily, and handed her business card to everyone and then delivered the exact same facts about her company. She made the mistake of talking at people, instead of talking with people. They smiled politely and took her card and I'm sure she thought she was being a good networker. I thought she was given poor advice. I was positive she was creating a negative impression (and she wouldn't get any business as a result). In fact, I overheard several people say they thought she was just being rude. At another event, I saw a woman simply pass her card out to everyone that was left milling around at the end of the event. As I walked out the door, I tossed something into the trash and I noticed several of her business cards. 


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.