The elevator pitch is not what you think.
When asked to describe what their organization does, an alarming number of us falter—surprising when you consider how much time and effort we all devote to it. The less comfortable people feel explaining their work, the longer they go on.
If that’s you, it’s not your fault. Many organizations haven’t taken the time to articulate the core value of what they offer as well as how they are different from the other options people have. If they have, it’s often out of date. Once that work is done, it’s time to put it in an elevator pitch. However, there’s a misconception out there that elevator pitches should explain the organization in its entirety.
The elevator pitch is not some Vulcan mind meld through which you transfer all the knowledge you have about your work into someone else’s head. That is the last thing you want to do. The elevator pitch is all about starting a relationship by starting a conversation. By leaving a lot unsaid, you open the door for more dialog.
Plus, when you try to explain everything, you end up going on too long. (Who’s got time for that?) Elevator pitches should hover around 60 seconds.
With all that in mind, here are what we believe are the four key components of an elevator pitch:
- Ask a question or pose a scenario. If possible, start the conversation by asking about their work, challenges, or frustrations. This step helps ensure that your description comes across as more of a conversation than a pitch.
- Set up the need. What is the core challenge that your organization addresses? For example, “People and organizations are struggling with <<PROBLEM A AND/OR B>>.” Set it up as both factual and emotional.
- Hint at the solution. Using natural language (read: enough with the acronyms and jargon already!), introduce the core benefit your organization provides. For example, “That’s where we come in. We solve <<PROBLEM A AND/OR B>> by <<hint at the solution without giving it all away>>.” Always try to include what is different about your offering.
- Tease for more. Here’s where you continue the conversation you have just started. Reframe the PROBLEM A or B as a question. For example, “What about you? Have the early warning signs of PROBLEM B started showing up for you?”
To see how the formula plays out, here’s how we’ve used it to create the Spencer Brenneman elevator pitch:
When you describe your work, do people immediately understand the need, the urgency, and the significance of what you do? More importantly, do they want to join you?
You’re not alone. Around the world, people like you are focused on fulfilling their actual mission, which sometimes means making incremental tweaks to how that gets done. Rarely are their messages tweaked to match, which is how they become stale and out of date. Plus, we are all so close to our work that often our message can come out like a recap of a Netflix show, season 3, episode 12, to someone who’s only seen season 1, episode 2.
We have a proven yet constantly evolving methodology to reframe your focus and remaster your message. People say that it has invigorated their work, brought them more confidence, and delivered a cadence for their message they could not have found on their own. Where does your organization struggle when it comes to explaining what you do?
The most important thing to remember when crafting an elevator pitch for your organization is that it should start a conversation, not make one unnecessary.