THE BLOG
09/28/2016 12:29 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2017

Elevator pitches that kill it

Elevator pitches are ice breakers that, if successful, lead to deeper discussions about your company. Conventional wisdom says they last 60 seconds. I don't agree because people tune out very quickly and after personally hearing thousands of them, the best last no longer than half a minute - a short elevator ride for sure.

What makes a pitch bring the idea-on-a-napkin to life awesome? The very best are first and foremost short stories that hook your listener. Effective hooks have some to do with "what" is being said, but equally important is "how" it is said and the best hooks are driven by passion. Passion is not emotion and if you have to manufacture either people won't buy it, especially investors that buy risk by investing in young companies. Good is good, great is great, wow is your goal - and the mini-narratives that "wow" me and drive me to ask for more do these eight things:

  • Start with describing the itch you are scratching out of the gate, a question work
  • Describe the business in a few words, an analogy works
  • Lay out your mission or purpose in 5 words or less, visionary works
  • Establish credibility by touching on experience, customers and outcomes
  • Sound human and natural, never over rehearsed or jargon-y
  • Touch on why you are best to execute
  • Hover above the forest and stay out of the trees, definitely out of the weeds
  • Ends with an ask and call to action

Never talk about the revenue model, how much capital you have raised or are raising, what the competition looks like, who makes up the team, the target market, the sales strategy, etc. This is what the next conversation is about, and it is typically summarized via a business plan. Your immediate goal after your punchy, persuasive and compelling 23 seconds are up: to be asked at least one meaningful question.