How to Write a Good Elevator Pitch

Feb 2021

6 mins read

“You get a single chance to make a good impression” is a commonly used phrase in business. I believe that everyone is given a moment in their life, and at this particular moment, you will be at the right place, at the right time, and the right person will appear who will have a profound impact on your career and your destiny. These miracle moments take many forms; they could be in an elevator, on a sports field, in a queue at a mall waiting to pay for something, whilst washing your hands in a restaurant bathroom, or even in the first three minutes of a job interview.

Human beings are fantastic dreamers. We all dream about that once-in-a-lifetime meeting with the person who will recognise that special talent within us and grant us a golden career opportunity. In our dreams, that opportunity will allow us to achieve greatness, be it stardom, a dream job, or landing that significant contract. Even though we have these wonderfully inspired dreams, many of us do hardly anything beyond dreaming.

However, you need to prepare for that moment now! Or risk losing the opportunity when the moment comes.

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What is an elevator pitch or speech?

But how do you prepare? Well, there is a tried and trusted method – it’s called the elevator pitch. The elevator pitch “technique” has been refined by business people and entrepreneurs over decades of successful use. Why is the elevator pitch or speech such a successful technique?

In behavioural economics, the field which explores and examines human decision-making, experts believe that humans, who are bombarded with information, take shortcuts when needing to make sharp, snappy decisions. These decision-making principles called Heuristics, or “rules of thumb”, are usually applied when first meeting someone. Do you recall that first meeting with someone and already having a sense of things or a sense of them? Well, that was your brain reverting to that “rule of thumb” shortcut wired into your brain.

In ancient times, this brain-wiring allowed us to know whether the person we met was a friend or a foe and whether we needed to engage, freeze, or flee. Although our daily encounters are not as drastic since our daily survival context has changed, our brains still use the same decision-making processes today. This explains why we still use shortcuts to make up our minds about people in the first five minutes of meeting them.

So, if you want to leave a good, engaging and lasting impression with someone you’ve just met, you need to understand how humans make decisions on the “hoof” and how to make these brain shortcuts work to your advantage. In other words, how do you prepare for that special miracle moment to make a good lasting impression and make your dreams a reality?

How to write an elevator pitch in 8 steps

Whether you’re an aspiring business person thinking about how to become an entrepreneur or a student wondering how to start a business with no money, grab a pen and paper, and let’s start working on your elevator pitch. Here are the rules you need to know in order to write the perfect speech:

1. Keep your elevator pitch short and simple

    The first rule of an elevator pitch is that it is usually no longer than 80-90 words. Why do you think that this is? Well, back to behavioural economics, humans are bombarded with information, from all directions, all of the time, particularly today, with the intrusive presence of apps screaming for attention from our mobile phones. You are competing for attention with everything else, so to be most effective, the information needs to be presented in a concise manner.

    This principle of brevity has been successfully applied since 2006, when Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams invented Twitter, and decades later, it's still successful, right? A tweet in 2021, contains 280 characters, which is roughly 50-55 words depending on the word length. Your elevator speech should roughly be about twice the size of the average tweet.

    So, keep your pitch short, simple, and to the point so that your audience finds it easy to remember and hard to forget.

    2. Keep it under 30 seconds

      You will need to practice delivering these 90 words in 30 seconds – 30 seconds being the time that it would take an elevator to go from the ground floor of a building to the top floor. Remember that you are competing for time against someone looking at their mobile phone and catching up on email and other things, so you need to be quick enough to make your lasting impression, and 30 seconds is the magic window to hold the attention of your audience, without being intrusive or allowing your audience to feel antsy about not reaching for their phones.

      3. Introduce yourself concisely

        In crafting your pitch, best practice directs that the first 20 words should be dedicated to introducing yourself, so concisely introduce your name, your background and your skills.

        4. Highlight the problem in your elevator speech

          The next 20 words should speak to the relevant problem you have identified because you have the background you have. Remember not to add any statistics or numbers because these could confuse your audience, so keep it simple and easy to understand.

          5. Define your solution

          The meat of your pitch is 30 words and must engage your listener by explaining how your background and solution can be of benefit or an advantage to them in some way.

          6. Close with a call to action

            Your closure and a call to action of 20 words must confirm what you need from your audience. Always end with a memorable hook like a quote or newspaper blurb and a warm smile.

            7. Rewrite and refine your elevator pitch

              Rewrite and refine your elevator pitch as many times as you must until you are happy with the final version and keep it updated as you progress through your career. The idea is to always have one ready as you evolve in your career.

              8. Practise

                Most importantly, you need to practise your elevator speech twice daily. Make this part of your daily routine by writing it on a sticky note and keeping it on your bathroom mirror. Repeat the exercise each morning and evening so that your delivery becomes natural and flawless.

                So, starting today you will do more than just dream and hope. From today, you will dream, hope and prepare for that chance meeting that is going to change your destiny. When it comes, you will grab hold of the miracle that is meant to be yours by learning this method or technique.

                You are one step closer to your dream job.

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                Thirosh Naidoo

                I have been in executive leadership for 20 years, always managing the legal function as General Counsel. I recently completed my MBA and won an award for the best integrative research (applied business research).