Five Tips to Creating the Perfect Elevator Pitch

Picture this. You’re coming back from lunch, you step on the elevator and right before the doors close the VP of Marketing steps on. You don’t know her, but you want to. You have 30 seconds to make an impression. Are you prepared for this moment? I have been in the position of giving the pitch and receiving the pitch. I am surprised at how few people were able to deliver the pitch in a way that grabbed my interest. Here are five keys to creating and perfecting your elevator pitch so that you are ready for every opportunity that knocks.

#1 – Give an Introduction Full of Anchors

I know. This one seems fairly obvious. But most people won’t even look at another person in the elevator, let alone speak to them. A well-crafted introduction can convey all of the essentials in a matter of seconds. While “Hi, I’m Nile” works it doesn’t really give the person something to respond to. Your introduction needs to include anchor information. She needs to understand in what context to put you.

“Hi, I’m Nile Harris. I am the team lead on XYZ project reporting into Barbara Stanley in the Western Division.”

Now, the VP has context with which to place you in the organization and hopefully, she knows Barbara Stanely. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to put in some more anchors.

#2 – Create a Connection

Did you see the VP of Marketing speak at an event? Or is she working on something you have an interest in? My go-to connection is telling someone our paths have crossed, even when they haven’t directly. If you were at the same conference or same meeting, your paths did cross, but you may not have spoken.

“You know, our paths crossed briefly at the marketing summit last year where you talked about the new branding strategy for the Eastern Division. I really enjoyed hearing your perspectives.”

#3 – Drop Your Resume

You want to be careful not to ask a question. If you only have 30 seconds, you don’t want to give away that precious time to them answering it. The key is to get in front of them later where they can have all of the time in the world to talk. Use the connection you just created.

“I’ve been leading XYZ project for six months and while we’ve been highly successful, sales are up 30% and we’re under budget, but after hearing your talk I’ve been considering if a re-brand effort would help us as well. I’ve been in marketing for five years and I believe I have the skill set to take this on.”

#4 – Pause for the Cause

While you don’t want to turn the floor over to them, you do want to let them get a word in edgewise. See if you can throw a yes or no question in without breaking your flow or giving up too many seconds. You want them to know you are interested in what they have to say. Most executives are used to the elevator pitch. They expect it, but it’s still frustrating to be talked at. Interested people are interesting.

“I recently read ABC book on rebranding, have you read it?”

#5 – The Call to Action

The idea isn’t to sell someone on you in 30 seconds, the idea is to sell them on giving you a longer period of time in which to sell yourself. End the interaction with an ask. At worst the person will say no. Even if they say no, they are probably willing to give you the name of someone on their staff. That person is probably a gate-keeper. If you get past them, you will probably be able to meet with her. So don’t be discouraged if you get a no at first.

“Again, I thought the work you did on the rebrand was great and I would love to hear more about the strategy and what you learned, and also share some of my ideas. I’m sure your schedule is packed, would you be open to a 30-minute one-on-one in the next few weeks?”

If the answer is yes, ask if you should reach out to their assistant directly or if you should send them a reminder email. If they opt for email, send it immediately. If they say no, your next question is “is there someone on your team you recommend I reach out to who helped lead this effort with you?”. Make it clear that you want a meeting with their right hand.

Put together your 30-second elevator pitch, then practice it. I recommend grabbing a colleague or friend and going through this process together. You want your pitch to be so fluid that it comes across as natural conversation, but not too rehearsed. You should also practice improvising the pitch. Once you are ready, put yourself in a target-rich environment. And by that I mean put yourself where your target audience is likely to be. If you know the VP usually takes that elevator at a certain time of day, be sure you’re there. Also be comfortable that you might not be the only person on the elevator. Be ready to make your pitch in front of others. White men do it all of the time. You need to be equally comfortable.

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Nile Harris
Nile Harris, the Chief Chick, is a word weaver and dream believer with 20 years of experience in healthcare, finance, and education. This aspiring motivational speaker, TED presenter and LinkedIn Influencer is committed to valuing people, driving healthcare access and innovation, and weaving words that move people to action. Her views are her own.
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