Whether you’re a hopeful entrepreneur trying to find investors to help you start your business or a seasoned business leader introducing your enterprise for the first time, you’ve only got about 30 seconds to land a great first impression, and your elevator pitch is the best tool to get the job done. If it doesn’t impress, it’s going to lose you a lot of opportunities.
If you’ve already got an elevator pitch sketched out and you’ve tried it in a live environment, only to find yourself struggling to get beyond the “introduction” stage, there are several reasons why your approach might be betraying you:
1. It’s too formal.
This isn’t an essay contest. It’s a conversation, and it should sound like a natural conversation to anyone who’s listening.
It is a good idea to write out what you plan to say -- this gives you a key opportunity to visualize your intended speech and make adjustments on paper. However, if you start your elevator speech like it’s a written document, people will notice right away.
For example, if you lead with, “Our company is a technical enterprise with over 15 years of combined experience at the helm,” you can bet your audience will stop listening immediately.
2. You ramble.
This is a key symptom of someone who has not spent time thinking about what, exactly, he or she wants to say about his or her company. Your elevator pitch might say everything about your company, and convey that information accurately, but it isn’t organized, to the point and sounds like you’re making it up off the top of your head. What’s even worse is that you probably spend too much time rattling these details off.
It’s good to be excited about your company, and it’s good to be able to improvise, but if that excitement or that improvisation leads you to ramble, you’ll only succeed in sabotaging yourself.
3. It’s too rehearsed.
Practice makes perfect, and elevator pitches are no exception to the rule. When you practice, you can prepare exactly what you want to say, get your pacing down and learn to avoid the potential pitfalls that come up during your speech. However, there’s such a thing as too much practice.
People can tell the difference between someone who’s speaking genuinely and someone who’s just regurgitating a few overly rehearsed lines. If you’re the latter, you’ll immediately lose the opportunity. Feel free to practice, but be sure to change up your specific wording and pacing to keep things casual and conversational.
4. It focuses on your idea.
Your idea is important, and your elevator pitch is a good chance to show it off, but if that’s the exclusive focus of your pitch, you’re going to fall victim to the “so what?” factor.
Instead of focusing on who you are, focus on what problem you’re trying to solve. Introduce your business as a solution for a specific problem, and wherever possible, introduce the problem first. This will keep your audience more interested in what you have to say and give real significance to your business.
5. It neglects the market.
Let’s say you’ve introduced the problem and the solution, but did you introduce the current landscape you operate in? Investors especially want to know what type of people you’re seeking to serve, what type of competition you’re currently facing and what your market research says about your potential to grow. These questions are critically important to answer, which means you need to do your homework up front.
Without data to back up your approach, many listeners simply won’t take your pitch seriously.
6. There’s no concise setup.
Even your elevator pitch needs an elevator pitch. Despite the fact that your pitch is already between 30 to 60 seconds, many people will opt to stop listening to you as soon as the first sentence leaves your lips. If that first sentence isn’t concise or direct, or if it doesn’t grab your listener’s attention immediately, you may have lost your audience before you’re even done speaking.
Work to boil your company down to a single-sentence description, and cut out everything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Once that single-sentence setup is perfected, you can spend the rest of your minute elaborating on the core problem your business solves and how you intend to go about solving it.
Your elevator pitch, like your business, should be flexible enough to evolve over time. Don’t be afraid to make tweaks and changes, and try it out in a real environment to test how your changes effect the impression you make. If you commit yourself to ongoing self-improvement, eventually you’ll settle on a variation of your pitch that never ceases to grab your audience’s attention.