In the time it takes for an elevator to get from floor 1 to floor 20, how well could you sell something? If you can do it effectively, you’re in good shape to thrive in a climate in which many arguments must be made in 140 characters or less, single paragraphs, or, in the case of an elevator pitch, about 90 seconds.
Whether you’re selling yourself at a job fair, pushing a product at a competition, trying to raise money for a cause, or just trying to convince your classmates that your idea is a superior one, the ability to quickly and succinctly get to the point can pay huge dividends. Here’s a short guide on how you can perfect the art of the quick pitch.
Floors 1-5: Cut to the chase
Your opening 20 seconds should get right to the task of answering the question “what do you do?” or “what is your product or idea?” At a career fair, for example, your pitch doesn’t have time to start with “in 2010, I began my college career, and then I…” and so on and so forth. Instead, leave the past out of it and get right to the present by saying what you can do today (i.e., your skills). Recruiters will be engaged immediately, matching your traits with those required for the job opening. Similarly, for business proposals, cutting to the chase means describing right off the bat what your product or idea is, not its history.
Floors 5-15: Prove it
Once you’ve given a general outline of the facts, it’s time to show why your skill or product is different than others. This is all about addressing one trait (maybe two) that makes you unique. Is it a statistic that shows how effective you are? Is it a method you use to, say, write code, that isn’t used elsewhere? Whatever it is, make sure your differentiator is based on facts. One of the easiest ways to lose your audience is to use emotional terms like “excited” or “determined,” which hold less weight in elevator pitches as there is no real time to prove those claims.
Floors 15-20: Close strongly
By this time, you’re fifteen floors up and time is at a premium. So it’s time to answer the one question you think your audience is asking. “What’s the next step?”, for example. “What brought you here?” No matter your kind of pitch, it is important to end your statement with something that reminds the audience that you solve a problem or fill some sort of role. In job settings this is easier: You can provide the skills and have the perfect background to help the company. In pitches, however, make sure you creatively remind your listeners why their vote of confidence will benefit them as well.
A good elevator pitch ultimately comes down to being confident and professional without coming off like a pushy salesman. Once you’ve figured out the steps, practice as much as you can in front of a mirror, friend or family member until everything is perfect down to the body language, and you’ll be ready to tackle whatever opportunities come your way.