The elevator pitch: what does it even mean?

Elevator Pitch
(Image credit: Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels)

The average elevator pitch may only last sixty seconds or less, but it could be a speech that turbo-charges your career and changes your life – because you never know who’s listening, and how they can help you.

The name “elevator pitch” emerged because your pitch shouldn’t last longer than an elevator ride, and it’s important to keep it brief: people are busy, and you’ll impress them if you can sell yourself and your big idea in a short period of time.

It’s hard to cram all the relevant information into sixty seconds or less, and it’s even trickier to deliver the pitch when you’re under pressure and potentially speaking to important people. That’s why we’ve explained exactly what you need to include, what to avoid, and how to get it right.

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When should you use an elevator pitch?

The elevator pitch may have emerged from the busy world of big business, but it’s applicable to a huge variety of situations in today’s working world.

You can use your pitch to impress other people at industry networking events, for instance, or during job interviews. You may even find it useful at social events if you get talking to people in your industry, and you’ll get loads of use out of it at performance reviews, job fairs and other professional events. If you work in sales, you’ll use it all the time when you’re trying to close deals.

Ultimately, you can deploy a great elevator pitch in any situation where you need to sell yourself and your ideas.

What to include in an elevator pitch

You don’t have much time to get all the key points across in an elevator pitch, so you’ve got to be really selective about the information you include.

It’s important, of course, to consider the objective of your pitch. Sometimes you’ll want to tell people about your job, or you’ll be pitching for a new position – and on other occasions you’ll need to sell a specific, measurable goal. Either way, that’s a crucial bit of information that the pitch must convey.

You need to explain how you’ll achieve those goals, too. You’ve got to outline the skills and attributes that you possess that’ll help you get the job done – because this pitch sells you just as much as it sells your business ideas.

If you’ve got some unique selling points that will help you achieve your goals, more than anything else, make sure this is included in your pitch. When you’ve only got between thirty and sixty seconds to sell yourself, you’ve got to nail the big ideas because you’ve not got enough time for details.


(Image credit: Startup Stock Photos / Pexels)

How to structure your pitch

A good elevator pitch doesn’t just rely on the speakers’ skills and goals to engage the listener. It’s important to speak positively – to really show off your abilities and achievements – and it’s crucial to avoid negative language.

It’s a good move to use industry-specific words if you really want to show off your knowledge, but be aware of people becoming disengaged because you’ve used too much jargon. Keep the pitch focused and straightforward, and have a business card ready to hand over after you’ve completed your pitch.

There are plenty of other tips that can help you perfect your pitch. Consider engaging your subject with a question, and be flexible when you’re speaking to people – mention what you can do and how you’re willing to work, not what you’re looking to avoid. Consider using a real-life situation to demonstrate your competence and the viability of your idea, and use a couple of relevant statistics to provide evidence of your claims.

If you’re trying to pitch for some new business, identify a problem and explain how you can solve it. And if you or your business offers something that no one else does, be bold about saying that.

It’s also important to remember what not to say in your elevator pitch. Don’t speak too quickly, because your audience won’t parse what you’re saying, and don’t ramble. If you want to avoid these issues, it’s worth practicing your pitch before you try it in the wider world.

Be aware of your body language and verbal communication: if you can look and sound positive and engaging rather than closed-off and monotone, you’ll find more success. And be aware that you can have more than one elevator pitch – it’s always worth having a few in your pocket that work in different situations.

You’ve got to remember all of these rules and suggestions if you want to put together a successful elevator pitch. Beyond that, don’t forget the basics: identify your goal, explain how you’ll do it, make yourself sound invaluable and engage with the listener – and practice before you speak.

Mike has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has written for most of the UK’s big technology titles alongside numerous global outlets. He loves PCs, laptops and any new hardware, and covers everything from the latest business trends to high-end gaming gear.