Being able to deliver an effective and engaging elevator pitch is an important skill even if you’re not an actively fundraising entrepreneur. I recently worked with StartingBloc Fellows of San Francisco to provide them with feedback on pitching for jobs, mentors, and funding. I compiled the list below of 5 things you need to consider when developing an elevator pitch:
- Know your audience: Who are they? What is their background/expertise? What are their attitudes and interests? What inspires them to act?
The angle of your pitch, your word choice, your story, your data should all be uniquely selected base on your audience. If you are pitching a medical device, what you present will vary drastically if you are speaking to an audience of doctors, patients, insurance companies, or investors. Craft unique pitches for each of these audiences and be prepared to deliver one as soon as you discover the woman on the bus next to you invests in biotech.
- Setup the problem: What problem are you trying to solve? Why does it matter? In order to keep any audience engaged in your pitch, you need to elicit emotion that inspires them to listen to what you have to say. This is best done through storytelling, by developing a personalized connection to a problem and showing (not telling) your audience why they should care. I’ve learned most of what I know about storytelling from Stanford Business School lecturer JD Schramm, so I encourage you to watch his session on concise, powerful storytelling.
- Layout your solution: How are you going to solve this problem? Why is this solution better, cheaper, more sustainable than other options? When presenting your technically-advanced solution to an even more technically-complex problem, avoid using industry-specific jargon or complicated language unless you are 110% sure that the person you are speaking to has the expertise needed to understand every word you’re saying. You don’t want to risk alienating people who could be great advocates for you.
- Share a taste of your special sauce: Why are you the best person/team to solve this problem? What makes you special? You’ve identified a problem, you’ve laid out your solution, but your audience still doesn’t know why you should be the one to execute this solution. I recently attended Peter Thiel’s fireside chat with PandoDaily where he articulated what I’ve heard from many other investors and entrepreneurs “I’d rather invest in an individual, than an idea. You can’t change a person, but you can change an idea.” Your personality, your skillset, your expertise, and your network are more defensible than most business plans or technology. Beyond pitching your solution, you need to sell yourself, your teammates, and your advisors.
- End with your Ask: What do you want? Why are you pitching? Your audience won’t know what you want from them unless you tell them. Whether you’re seeking advice, an introduction, or a $5 million investment, you need to conclude with a specific request. If your audience has been “sold” on your solution, they want to be given concrete next steps on how they can help you and get involved. Failure to present a clear purpose for an individual to engage could keep them from stepping up and “sealing the deal” with you. Your ask only has to be one sentence, but that sentence is often pivotal to your success.
Most importantly, make sure you are prepared to give your elevator pitch to anyone at any time (this means you’ll need to practice). You never know how valuable that random run-in could be, so you need to be at a point where you can deliver your articulate pitch with confidence as you ride your way up 34 floors…
Need more inspiration? Check out one of my favorite episodes of This American Life: Million Dollar Idea (MIT Elevator pitch segment starts at 8:30)