I’ve committed to write 1500 words, plus or minus, giving you guidance on perfecting your elevator pitch. 1500 words devoted to the art of keeping it brief. In a sense, an opening paragraph like this is the elevator pitch for the essay that follows. It’s where I should be drawing you in, letting you know what’s in it for you if you read until the end. Right around this sentence is where I should be getting to my point.
As far as elevator pitches go, that opening paragraph was an utter failure.
Let’s start over. Better yet, let’s skip ahead. Let’s make an example of the opening paragraph. As I said, it’s essentially an elevator pitch—so let’s use it to learn how to build a better one.
Using the principles of writing a good pitch, I’ll form an excellent introduction to what you’re already reading. By the time you get to the end of this post, you’ll have learned how to craft a killer elevator pitch and finally get to read the first paragraph.
Step 1: Write out what you do.
For you, that would be a description of the product or service you offer, noting what problems it solves and how, exactly, you solve it.
Write down anything that distinguishes you from the competition, like your sales performance or company history. Any awards or other kinds of recognition? That’s good information. Don’t worry about length here, just get a bunch of information out on the page to help you ID your selling points.
For my opening paragraph, the product I’m pitching is what you’re reading right now. This essay was created to solve one problem: people creating bad elevator pitches. It solves this problem by creating a best practices guide for that task. I, the author, have founded a few companies in my career, and so am keenly aware of what makes for an effective elevator pitch.
One of my pitches was the first step in securing millions of dollars in funding for my current company, AppInstitute. I’ve done my own research on writing them, and I can tell you my essay on the topic is more entertaining than the competition.
Step 2: Prepare to convert your initial babble into a concise text.
You’ll want to go through what you wrote in step one, and highlight the most important concepts to help focus your messaging. Because you need to be brief, just jot down a list of phrases that are the key points, forming a kind of skeleton for your pitch.
Based on what I sketched out above, I’d jot down the following:
● Problem: bad elevator pitches
● Solution: this essay
● Best practices guide
● Written by a serial entrepreneur
● I’ve done my share of pitching
● Used pitches to get funding
● More entertaining approach to the solution
You don’t have to include everything you put on this list. Think of it more as a group of ingredients you can choose from rather than as requirements.
Step 3: Begin Writing
But, before you begin writing, a note about brevity. You know that old quote from Shakespeare, “Brevity is the soul of wit?” I’d have him shorten that if he were using it for an elevator pitch. “Brevity is wit.” Done.
Seriously, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be brief.
The whole concept of the elevator pitch is that it’s got to get everything out, even if you only have the time it takes to reach your floor. Some people say it should be no more than 60 seconds, but I say keep it under 30. Strangers who deliver monologues in elevators for more than 30 seconds are probably supervillains, spilling the details of their evil plans. Strangers who keep the speech under 30 seconds are just good at selling.
So, with that said, every sentence has to count, starting with the first one.
Your first one has to grab your audience’s attention. That doesn’t mean it has to be witty and wise—just that you’ll need to let people know immediately why they’re listening to you.
I always like to start by stating the problem, and in a way that’s relatable. To do that, you should tailor your description of the problem to the person you’re speaking to. If you were selling a tech solution into a company and speaking to an employee, you’d talk about the troubles he faces doing his job efficiently and accurately. The same pitch to the company’s owner would start with how much her current infrastructure is costing her.
For my opening paragraph, I’m writing for people who are selling something and having a hard getting people interested. So I’m going to open the whole piece with something short and sweet, and that cuts to the heart of the matter:
Your elevator pitch just doesn’t seem to be working.
Step 4: Offer Hope
This is where you make it known that you’ve got a solution to this problem. Don’t just call out your product by name, but give a little detail as to how it works.
Keep it simple, and for the love of all that is tasteful, do not use jargon! Nothing makes you sound more foolish than the use of meaningless cliches—that’s a life lesson, by the way. It doesn’t only apply to elevator pitches.
If I told you this essay facilitates the end-to-end composition of goals-based monologues across all verticals, it would be the same as declaring myself incapable of human connection.
Always speak in human terms, with everyday words, to ensure clarity in your message.
But all is not lost. Consider this essay a Best Practices guide: you’ll learn how to focus your selling points and improve your presentation.
Step 5: Get Credible
Anyone who’s watched in advertisement on television knows that simply selling a product on its merits isn’t enough. People will be intrigued if it’s unique enough, but if they’ve never heard of your company it’s still a tough sell. You’ll need a couple sentences to earn some credibility.
As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve delivered quite a few pitches over my career—and I wasn’t always great at them. But I’ve written so many, I can tell you what works, and what doesn’t. My pitches have sold products and secured funding.
Step 6: Differentiate From Your Competition
Unless you’re selling something that’s a totally new idea, you’re going to have competition. Take one sentence to set yourself apart. That could be in your approach to the problem, or maybe you’ve gotten some good press or recognition. Whatever you can say about your company or product that no one else can say about themselves, you’ll drive home the point.
I know it isn’t fun to write a pitch, which is why this essay comes with 33% more humor than the average blog post.
Step 7: Bring It Home.
We’ve come to the point where you’ll need to stop talking. Make sure your pitch’s conclusion isn’t an ending, but the start of the next conversation—something like “I’d love to go over this in more detail when you have the time” or even “Check out our website for more information.”
The idea of the last sentence is to spur your audience into some kind of response or action.
So keep reading, have a laugh, and then write a new pitch that won’t suck.
For me, as the writer of this post, my job is done. For you, though, you’ve got one more task: practice saying the pitch. Practice it until the words escape your mouth from memory, so you can focus on your delivery.
It should sound natural when you say it, like you’re just speaking off the cuff. This is easier for some people than others, but with enough repetition you’ll get it down.
Even though I don’t have to say mine out loud, it’s still a good idea to view it all together. Besides, we’ve come to the end of this post, which means you need to see the beginning I promised you.
Your elevator pitch just doesn’t seem to be working. But all is not lost. Consider this essay a Best Practices guide: you’ll learn how to focus your selling points and improve your presentation. As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve delivered quite a few pitches over my career—and I wasn’t always great at them. But I’ve written so many, I can tell you what works, and what doesn’t. My pitches have sold products and secured funding. I know it isn’t fun to write a pitch, which is why this essay comes with 33% more humor than the average blog post. So keep reading, have a laugh, and then write a new pitch that won’t suck.
About the Author: Ian Naylor is the founder and CEO of AppInstitute, one of the world’s leading DIY App Builders (over 70,000 apps built). Naylor has founded, grown and sold 4 successful internet and technology companies during the past 18 years around the world.