What's Better Than an Elevator Pitch?

An elevator pitch is old-fashioned. Sam Horn shows us how to capture an audience's attention instantly, with several different techniques from her new book, Got Your Attention?

Stever Robbins
3-minute read
Episode #357

Today's episode is an interview with Sam Horn, author of the new book Got Your Attention? Sam has helped a gazillion businesspeople, entrepreneurs, salespeople, and solo practitioners communicate their messages so they "Pop!" (The messages, of course, not the people themselves.)

Sam claims that elevator pitches are overrated. Too many businesspeople worry about how to communicate their value in a 30-second, 3-sentence statement. But an elevator pitch is just a mini-speech. And people don't like to be spoken at, they like to be engaged. As an alternative to an elevator pitch, try this approach:

Consider the results that you can produce. What is the tangible, measurable, behavioral difference you'll make in their life? Rather than describing yourself, you're going to be describing the observable difference you make in the world. (If you don't make any observable difference, now's the time to start!) For example, if you work in a hospital radiology lab, what you actually do is operate MRI machines, make sure the results get interpreted correctly and communicated to patients.

Use a 3-part question. Now turn the difference you make into a 3-part question. "Have you, a friend, or a family member ever needed an MRI or CAT scan?" Wait for their answer. This is the part that hooks them and gets them engaged. "Well, I run the facility where they go to get the scan and hear the results." You've communicated your value, but done so in a way that captures your audience's attention by being interactive.

You use a 3-part question "Have you, a friend, or a family member," so virtually everyone can find a way to relate to the answer. Even if you haven't had an MRI yourself, you've probably had a family member or a friend who has. And if not, just visit one of the many friendly towns around the country where large, multinational chemical companies secretly dump their toxic waste. In no time at all, you'll meet plenty of people who have had tons of MRI experience.

And presto - you've turned your elevator pitch into a dialogue..

Vague Professions Need a Customer Viewpoint

Sometimes a profession is really hard to describe and creating an elevator pitch is difficult. Take my profession, CEO coaching, for example. If you're trying to explain a vague profession, ask yourself what your customers worry about when they lie awake at night. What are their actual concerns? "I need a new job!" "I need more time!" "My team isn't performing up to par!" "My industry is changing, we're losing sales, and I don't know why!"

See also: How to Find a Job When You Have an Unusual Background


Now weave one or more of those concerns into your engaging 3-part question. "Have you, a friend, or a family member ever thought it was time for a job change?" Wait for them to say "Yes." Then say, "What I do is help people evaluate their career options and change jobs."

In Job Applications, Be Problem/Solution Focused

If you're applying for a job, you will also increase your chances of landing it by taking the time to understand your prospective employer's needs and crafting your approach around that. Consider your past in terms of the problems you've solved, rather than the activities you've performed. Match those problems to concerns your prospective employer might have, as you read about on their web site, in the news, and your other research. Then you craft your approach around the solutions and again, launch into questions early to engage your interviewer.

This episode is only the first half of the full interview with Sam Horn. If you want to know more ways to craft an elevator pitch and grab your audience using a dialogue, listen to the whole interview—or watch it on video—on my interview page with Sam about her book Got Your Attention? and enjoy!

I'm Stever Robbins. I help CEOs and high-potential leaders master the skills needed to run an entire organization. If you want to know more, visit SteverRobbins.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.