Note: This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of the Association for Women in Communications monthly newsletter, Communique. It is used here with permission. Interested in learning about AWC? Visit womcom.org
We’ve all heard the term “Elevator Pitch,” that 30-second commercial that we provide when we meet new people at business events. That pitch is often the lifeline for many of us seeking to attract new clients and/or referrals (or even a new job). And in today’s world of virtual meetings and networking events via Zoom and other platforms, where eye contact and body language is largely missing, our elevator pitch needs to be on point – every time.
So let’s start with a quiz.
How many words are in a 30-second elevator pitch?
- 100 words
- 70 words
- 115 words
- 80 words
The answer: About 70 words. Are you surprised by that? You can say quite a bit with 70 words and 30 seconds (just think about sound bites in broadcasts).
My pitch is below. It’s 45 words long and it takes about 18 seconds to deliver.
My name is Sue Voyles and I’m the president and founder of Logos Communications, where we tell the compelling stories of our clients to their target audiences through writing, public relations, marketing and social media. Our passion is helping small and medium-sized businesses.
Take a cue from journalism
So if you’re wondering how you can improve your pitch, or even struggle with being consistent each and every time, I’d like to suggest you take a cue from journalism.
I studied journalism in college and spent 14 years as a business magazine writer, editor and publisher. One of the key things we learned is to write our stories so they answer the 5 Ws and 1 H – who, what, when, where, why, and how. Here’s how you can incorporate that into your elevator pitch.
So let’s see how that can work in an elevator pitch:
- Your name and your company.
- What you do. In my pitch, it’s “we tell the compelling stories of our clients to their target audiences.”
- If your business has a time component to it, include the When. For example, if you’re running a commercial cleaning service you may need to tell people that it’s an after-business hours operation.
- The where is very important for bricks and mortar locations, or if you’re covering a geographic area in your business.
- Your “why” of doing business and/or ideal client. For my firm, it’s our passion for helping small and medium-sized businesses.
- Your service and/or product. How do you execute on the What? In my pitch, it’s “writing, public relations, marketing and social media.”
So now let’s turn to ideas to help elevate your pitch. One of the other key skills I learned in journalism school is that the first paragraph of your story – called the lead (where you incorporate the 5 Ws and 1 H) — should be written in an engaging way to encourage the reader to keep reading. Or, in this case, encourage the prospective customer, employer or strategic partner to want to know the rest of “your story” – you, your business.
Like a good story lead, a great elevator pitch is:
- Succinct and clear.
- Tip: Avoid jargon, which just confuses people.
- Uses your time wisely (and that of the person you’re engaging with).
- Contains key messages (5 W’s, 1 H).
- Tip: WAIT acronym. When you’re done giving your pitch, think WAIT (Why Am I Talking). In other words, stop talking and let the other party respond with a question, comment or feedback.
- Engages enough for people to want to know the “rest of the story.”
- Tip: Don’t give the whole story upfront, let them ask you for more! (In other words, you do not need to tell them everything right away.)
But even if people don’t ask for the rest of your story, if you have a great elevator pitch, they will have enough information to understand the basics about you and your business.
One final piece of advice. Once you have come up with a great pitch, then try it out on a few people you trust and get their opinion. And when you settle on your elevator pitch, use it each and every time. Stay on script and I promise, you will be more confident in telling your story in a succinct and engaging manner.