The new elevator pitch

Many presentation experts will offer you a language structure for the “Elevator Pitch”, enabling you to cram your name, product, benefits and a call to action all into one sentence.

That’s not going to do you a ounce of good. Instead of trying to cram your sales pitch into as short a delivery as possible, you need to change your focus. Instead of pitching to win the business, funding or whatever it may be, pitch to win the chance to pitch. 

Your three minutes has to buy you the next 30.

Never, ever, ever attempt to cram all of your most fabulous ideas and compelling USPs into three minutes, or into any length of time for that matter. 

Instead, focus on how that initial three minutes is the trailer for the movie, the hook that leaves them saying “call me”, instead of leaving them with their heads spinning, saying ?erm?well it was nice meeting you?.

The more you try to cram in, the less the listener can take in, especially if you have caught them off guard. They?re just not in the right frame of mind to take in a torrent of information, regardless of how passionate or excited you may be. 

Think of the elevator pitch as a teaser to the main feature, just like a newspaper headline gives you a reason and motivation to read the full story.

I was once travelling to an important pitch and found myself in the elevator with a man who had just been for a run. I asked him about his run, we talked about training for marathons and then we both got out of the elevator. 

In the meeting room, I waited for the CEO to arrive. After a few minutes, guess who walked in? The CEO said, “Sorry to keep you all waiting, I just had to go for a quick run”. 

As the sales director began to introduce us, the CEO said, “We?ve already met!? ? we?d built rapport before the pitch itself had begun. 

This is such a vital skill for the professional presenter, not only for the chance meeting in the elevator but in any pitching situation, because you can usually guarantee that you won?t have the amount of time that you thought you were going to have.

Don?t think about an elevator pitch as something separate or different, think of it as the opening line of your main pitch, the line that gets the audience hooked. Whether you go on to deliver the rest of your pitch right there and then or a week later makes no difference. What matters is that you have their attention. When you think like a journalist, in terms of headline, then teaser, then story, you?ll be able to adapt your pitch to any situation.

Paul Boross is author of The Pitching Bible

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