5 Exercises to Master Your Elevator Pitch

Elevator pitches can be highly effective, but only if you've spent time perfecting them.

An elevator pitch is so named because it could theoretically be given in the time it takes an elevator to reach your destination. It's designed to be the most concise way to pitch your business to someone new, whether you're actively seeking new clients, trying to drum up funding for a startup, or just want to make small talk with strangers.

Elevator pitches are effective and practical because they help you reduce your business's main components down to a handful of relatively simple ideas (and relate those to total or near-total strangers). But while it might seem like a good idea to rely on your instincts and "wing it," it's actually far better to use these exercises to perfect your elevator pitch in advance:

1. Reduce everything down to a sentence. Instead of trying to write your whole pitch at once, focus on one sentence--your introduction. What one sentence best sums up your entire business? Think carefully here, and don't take a shortcut by permitting yourself additional space. You need to know what's most important about your business.
2. Flesh out and cut. Next, take some time and flesh out a few paragraphs about your business. Focus only on things you'd want a stranger or new contact to know. Then, work on cutting it down, sentence by sentence, until you only have what you need. Be ruthless here; conciseness is power.
3. Rehearse. Practice your speech in a mirror, often if possible. Just be careful not to over-rehearse; too much practicing can make you sound stale or robotic.
4. Play the dissenter. Imagine someone taking issue with every point you make, or better yet, find someone to play the role of "dissenter." It will give you good practice with common objections.
5. Act with strangers. Finally, practice your pitch with some total strangers, and diversify your audience. Talking to new people will help you find shift changes and potential responses to your pitch, which can later help you refine it.

Once you've crafted an ideal elevator pitch, you can start using it in more practical environments. Your pitch may change, as you find different things working or as your business pivots, but starting with a solid framework will put you far ahead of your competition from the beginning.