In the brilliant podcast, “Startup”, former radio producer Alex Blumberg chronicles his attempt to start a podcasting company (spoiler alert: he does it. The company is Gimlet Media, now a purveyor of many excellent podcasts). In the very first episode, Alex finds himself standing on a sidewalk, having to pitch his idea to one of the biggest investors in Silicon Valley. He stumbles, fumbles for words, and spews out a jumble of a long-winded, confusing mess. You can almost hear his nervous heart pumping out loud. It’s painful.
The concept of the “elevator pitch” is not a new one. It’s been around for decades, maybe centuries (though perhaps it was called something else before the invention of the elevator, we can’t be sure). The reason it has endured is because it is so, so important.
For those unfamiliar, an “elevator pitch” is a concise-as-possible summary of what you or your company are doing, what you’re about, and why anybody should care. This information needs to be conveyed simply, clearly, interestingly, and in about thirty seconds or less. (Note: some people say sixty, but in our opinion, you only get sixty if the first thirty went great).
So how do you develop a great elevator pitch? How do you make sure you’re pitching the best version of your company and your brand, and not the nervous, boring, heart-pumping version? Lucky for you, we’re here to help with some handy pointers.
Problem + Solution
An elevator pitch is all about breaking your company down and conveying what’s at it’s core in the simplest possible form. When you get right down to it, a company is there to solve a problem. The clear statement of what problem is out there in the world – and how your company is going to solve it, is a crucial part of a good elevator pitch.
You’re probably not the first person or company to recognize the problem you’re going after, and you probably won’t be the last. Even if you ARE the first, people have clearly gotten along just fine without you so far. So, part of your mission in your elevator pitch is to convey why now is the right time for this problem to be solved, why your way is the best, and why you are the one to solve it instead of your predecessors or competition. You might hear this referred to as an “unfair advantage” or a “unique selling proposition.” The gist is the same, and it comes down to “why you?”
Keep It Simple
You’ve only got thirty seconds. You don’t have time for numbers and data and testimonials and buzzwords and jargon. You don’t have time for complicated. Whatever words you choose to go in your elevator pitch, make them short, easy to understand, and jargon-free. If things start getting too complex, whomever you are pitching to will start asking themselves what you are talking about, which will both upset them, and distract them from listening to the rest of your pitch.
Don’t Be Boring
Don’t confuse simple and concise with boring. This pitch has to be capable of engaging your audience, getting them excited and hopefully leave them wanting more. This isn’t just about word choice either. It’s about confidence, practice and knowledgeability. Other people will only get excited about what you’re saying if YOU seem excited about what you’re saying. So use words that convey motion, life and activity, and then practice the heck out of them.