What Is an Elevator Pitch? Definition and How They're Used

What Is an Elevator Pitch?

Elevator pitch is a slang term used to describe a brief speech that outlines an idea for a product, service, or project. The name comes from the notion that the speech should be delivered in the short time period of an elevator ride. A good rule of thumb is that an elevator pitch should be approximately 30 seconds long, with a maximum of 60 seconds.

In the financial world, an elevator pitch refers to an entrepreneur's attempt to convince a venture capitalist that a business idea is worth investing in. Generally, a successful elevator pitch will be enough to pique an investor's curiosity and sets the stage for a follow-up meeting. It's during this meeting that the entrepreneur will present the investor with a more formal presentation in the hopes of raising seed capital.

Key Takeaways

  • An elevator pitch is a slang term that refers to a brief speech that outlines the idea for a product, service, or project.
  • An elevator pitch gets its name from the notion that the speech should be short—no longer than the time period of an elevator ride—or about 30 to 60 seconds long.
  • The objective of an elevator pitch is to pique the listener's curiosity enough for them to take any action, such as asking for more information or scheduling a follow-up meeting.
  • Project managers, salespeople, and job seekers use elevator pitches as a way of marketing themselves, their products, or their ideas.
  • Entrepreneurs use elevator pitches to help obtain startup capital from venture capitalists and angel investors.

Understanding an Elevator Pitch

Venture capitalists use the quality of the elevator pitch as a way to judge whether to take the next step on the road to potentially investing in a startup. The elevator pitch is also used by project managers, salespeople, and job seekers as a way to market themselves or their ideas. An elevator pitch should include why your product, idea, or project is worth investing in by explaining such things as the features, benefits, and cost savings.

A twit pitch or Twitter pitch is even shorter than an elevator pitch. At a standard 280 characters, a Twitter pitch uses the popular social media platform to provide a condensed version of a business idea.

How an Elevator Pitch Works

An elevator pitch is frequently memorized and practiced in advance by entrepreneurs who actively seek backers for their business ideas. There are a variety of forums and events where such pitches are presented before an audience that may include potential investors. For example, startup incubator programs may conclude with a demo day event where a founding member of the team, often the CEO, will deliver the elevator pitch about the company.

In such an instance, the pitch will describe the “pain point” the team is attempting to solve, what approaches have already been attempted to resolve the issue, and what the startup has to offer that has not been tried before. Moreover, the pitch is intended to explain, in clear and direct terms, why the idea or product can succeed where other novel concepts have not.

Depending on the circumstances, some elevator pitches may be longer than the proverbial elevator ride and can go into greater detail about the team involved in developing the idea. The pitch may also provide more information about how the concept will be brought to market, ways it will grow a customer base, and what the broader market opportunities are for the concept.

Elevator pitches may be used at some events as a form of contest, where the presenters compete for prizes that might assist them in furthering their ideas. This can include nominal funding or business services and mentoring with business veterans. Regardless of winning such a contest, the opportunity to present ideas before an audience of angel investors, venture capitalists, and other possible backers can be seen as a significant benefit of the pitch.

How to Create an Elevator Pitch

Fans of the popular TV show Shark Tank are familiar with the show's concept that allows budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their startup businesses to a panel of investor "sharks." While each entrepreneur's pitch is much longer than a standard elevator pitch, you can still use key elements that appear in most successful Shark Tank presentations as a model to help you create an effective elevator pitch for your own business.

Taking our cue from Shark Tank, you'll want to include the following elements in your elevator pitch:

  • A quick introduction of yourself and your company
  • A brief description of the problem your company's product or service solves
  • Why your solution is unique, has a competitive advantage, or is superior to other solutions
  • A glimpse into the earnings potential of your product or service
  • A persuasive call to action

Your elevator pitch should be concise, engaging, and offer just enough tantalizing details that hook your potential "shark investor" into asking for more information then and there or for a follow-up meeting at a later date.

What Do You Say in an Elevator Pitch?

The material you include in your pitch depends on context: what are you pitching, and what do you hope to achieve? If you're promoting yourself as a job candidate, your pitch would include your background, accomplishments, and the value you bring to the organization. If you're pitching a product or service, you'd mention your company's background, what your product or service offers, and how it's different from other offers on the market. Don't forget to close your pitch with a call to action.

How Long Should an Elevator Pitch Be?

An elevator should be about 30 to 60 seconds long—brief, but just long enough to touch on the important points. If you give a successful pitch that piques your audience's curiosity, you'll have time later to go into greater detail.

What Makes an Elevator Pitch Good?

The best elevator pitches are interesting, engaging, and invite the listener to find out more. Deliver your pitch confidently and get to the point quickly if you want to make a good impression. A good elevator pitch sets the stage for further action, whether that's an interview, a meeting, or just an exchange of business cards.

The Bottom Line

An elevator pitch is a quick explanation that aims to give your audience enough information that they are interested in learning more. Knowing how to craft a succinct and successful elevator pitch will help you attract people who are interested in what you have to offer, and is often the key to making connections with interested investors.

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