What Is an Elevator Pitch?
An elevator pitch, or elevator speech, is a short summary of a product, person, or company. A good elevator pitch is usually between 30 and 60 seconds long. Elevator pitches should be well-rehearsed, clear, and persuasive.
Appropriate in any networking scenario, formal or informal, the elevator pitch is the answer to the tricky “tell me about yourself” or “tell me about your company” question. A strong elevator pitch will demonstrate professional aptitude, grab attention, and convey information quickly, clearly, and memorably.
“A good elevator pitch will align a person emotionally and intellectually with your product and brand,” says Morgan Roth, Chief Communication Strategy Officer at EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases. “People need to feel good, smart, and safe about their investment of time, money, or other resources before they commit to calls to action. Your pitch puts your value-add on the radar and invites conversation with the potential for a relationship.”
Elevator Pitch Example
Here is an example of a basic elevator pitch for a software company:
ATS (applicant tracking software) reduces time people spend on hiring by about 20 percent. But these systems also throw away thousands of qualified resumes daily. Our team at Hiring Help has designed an ATS with the fewest formatting restrictions of any option on the market. Hiring Help software keeps hiring times low but discovers 30 percent more qualified resumes than the leading ATS, providing our users the best access to top talent.
How Long Should an Elevator Pitch Be?
An elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride. Usually this time is between 30 and 60 seconds, or 50 and 200 words. Some experts suggest writing elevator pitches that are as short as 15 seconds.
Most experts recommend erring on the shorter side. “Keep the pitch short — within seconds, not minutes,” says Roth. “Thirty seconds is the max because of our overworked attention spans. That said, have your next steps ready. What are you prepared to do and say if the prospect asks for a prospectus or a meeting? What if they have questions about you at the ready? Have a plan to follow up in the moment or the following day.”
Shorter elevator pitches are best for casual networking events or chance encounters, where your primary goal is to spark interest and open the possibility of a continued relationship. Elevator pitches might go longer, about 45 to 60 seconds, in scenarios such as job interviews or career fairs. In these situations, you have a platform to speak, and the person listening might want more specific, detailed information.
Remember that no matter the case, an elevator pitch should never exceed a minute in length. A good elevator pitch should open up the possibility of longer, more substantial conversations and professional relationships down the line.
How to Use an Elevator Pitch
Use an elevator pitch when you want to create a professional connection. Have your pitch ready for interviews, semi-formal chats, or career fairs. Break it out to spark interest, get across key points, and ask to stay connected.
“I love using the elevator pitch when working a room — say, at an industry conference,” says Justin Kitagawa, Senior Director of Revenue Operations at MixMode. “You’re there meeting new people, and you want to make a strong impression quickly and find out if it makes sense to continue the conversation later.”
Roth suggests having your elevator pitch ready, even if you don’t have a specific networking event in mind. “Certainly, an elevator speech is a great tool to use at networking events, but a well-practiced pitch is also great for those unplanned encounters when you run into someone, say, on an elevator,” she says. “You may not have planned or expected it, but here is that person you’ve been reading about who has some promising connection to your product or cause, and they are a captive audience for some period of time!”
Finally, Roth stresses the importance of following up after you’ve made a connection. “Don’t assume that your pitch will establish or secure a relationship on the spot,” she cautions. “Your elevator pitch is an introduction meant to generate interest and imagination about possibilities. It represents the start of a cultivation process that can take weeks, months, or even years to mature. You still have to steward the relationship and fan the flames of interest strategically and with sensitivity.”
How to Write an Elevator Pitch
When writing an elevator pitch, start with who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why you are unique. Pare down those details. Structure your pitch with an intro, relevant experience, goals, the solution, and your plan.
Learn how to write an elevator pitch about yourself, your company, or your product with this step-by-step guide.
1. Brainstorm Your Elevator Pitch
The first step to crafting an elevator pitch is to brainstorm some ideas. Think about all the ways you or your product add value.
Devin Schumacher, Co-Founder of SERP, recommends answering several key questions as you brainstorm your pitch: “Who are you talking to? What are their pain points? What are the results they want? What is your solution? When it’s time to write your pitch, you need to answer those questions clearly and simply.”
Use these questions as a starting point in your brainstorming process to ensure you cover all your bases:
2. Pare Down Your Ideas
Once you’ve finished brainstorming, it’s time to pare down your pitch. Effective elevator pitches are concise. Look through all your points, and select a few key details that you think will have the most impact.
“Your first order of business is to determine the one takeaway you want your prospect to take in,” explains Roth. “If he or she really hears you on one point only, what do you need that point to be?”
3. Write Your Elevator Pitch
Finally, it’s time to write your pitch. Keep the pitch short, usually between 50-120 words. Longer elevator pitches should never exceed 200 words.
Begin your pitch with an attention-grabbing detail. This opener might be a surprising statistic, a pain point that your audience can relate to, or a thought-provoking question. From there, be sure to include the following five components in your pitch:
- Introduction: Include basic information, such as name, job title, or company name.
- Experience: State any relevant work experience, or give your listener a little background about your company, brand, or idea.
- Goals: Clearly state your ultimate goal. This could be a pain point or problem you hope to address or value you can add.
- Solution: Tell your listener about your unique solution to the problem.
- Plan: Explain your plan for achieving your goal. Demonstrate that you have the necessary skills and knowledge, and be specific about how you are better equipped than your competitors to do it.
Use this reference guide to make sure you remember all the key components of a successful elevator pitch:
Tip: When writing your pitch, Kitagawa recommends talking through it aloud. “I prefer to talk through my pitch rather than write it out. If you can do this live with another person, even better. Writing them out tends to be a bit more one-sided and can leave you sounding like you’re reading off a marketing campaign,” he adds.
Elevator Pitch Starter Kit
Download Elevator Pitch Starter Kit
Use this free starter kit to help you get started writing your elevator pitch. This kit includes templates for a basic elevator pitch and an elevator pitch deck. In addition, you’ll find an elevator pitch cheat sheet, which includes a guide to reading listener cues, brainstorming ideas, and the key components of an elevator pitch, all in one comprehensive document. Finally, consult the list of correct elevator pitch examples to help guide you as you create your own.
In this kit, you’ll find:
- An elevator pitch template for Microsoft Word to guide you through the elevator pitch writing process.
- An elevator pitch deck template for PowerPoint to help you structure your elevator pitch as a presentation.
- An elevator pitch cheat sheet for Adobe PDF to help you read listener cues, brainstorm ideas, and remember the key components of an elevator pitch.
- A list of elevator pitch examples for Microsoft Word to help you create your own elevator pitch.
For more free resources to help you craft an elevator pitch, including templates that have been pre-filled with sample text, see this comprehensive collection of downloadable elevator pitch templates.
How to Write a 30-Second Elevator Pitch
Most experts recommend keeping your elevator pitch under 30 seconds. This translates to between 80 and 120 words. Be sure to include the five key parts: introduction, background, goals, solution, and plan.
Here are some examples of each of the elevator pitch components:
- My name is Linda, and I work in digital marketing.
- Our company is Hiring Help, a leading ATS software developer.
- Experience or Background:
- I’ve spent the last six years coordinating our social media advertising program. In our last initiative, I increased our Twitter engagement by 60 percent in three months.
- We’ve been producing industry trusted ATS software for more than 10 years.
- Goals or Pain Points:
- I noticed that your company hasn’t yet developed a robust social media presence, even while your top competitors are launching social media campaigns.
- Most ATS solutions cut down on hiring times by about 20 percent, but they also throw away thousands of qualified resumes for things as simple as formatting issues.
- As marketing manager, I could develop a social media engagement team to run a program that will make you more competitive.
- We offer software that saves as much time as our leading competitors, while giving our clients more access to top talent.
- In my current role, I’ve created a detailed social media development plan that any company can adapt.
- Our team of top-tier engineers has created software that discovers 30 percent more qualified resumes than the leading ATS, while keeping hiring times low.
How to Write a 60-Second Elevator Pitch
Opt for longer elevator pitches when you have a captive audience. A 60-second elevator pitch should be around 200 words and use the same components as a shorter pitch. In the extra time, add attention-grabbing details to prompt a dialogue.
“I would typically start with the 30-second pitch, and then be prepared to go into additional detail in the area where the person you are talking to expresses interest or asks a question. It’s all about matching up with their interests and potential needs,” advises Kitagawa.
“If you have the benefit of a full 60 seconds to make a case and an invitation to keep speaking, be prepared to show that you’ve done your research,” suggests Roth. “Connect your organization’s mission or product to your prospect’s specific needs, interests, or passion.”
If you have 60 seconds for your pitch, you can add the following on top of the basic elevator pitch components:
- Attention-Grabbing Details:
- Did you know that 55 percent of customers first hear about new brands or companies through social media?
- On average, 43 percent of the resumes that ATS products reject are for file compatibility issues, not because candidates aren’t qualified.
- Conversation Starters:
- What has been preventing your team from expanding into social media?
- What initiatives have you been taking to ensure that you are hiring the top talent available in your field?
How to Deliver an Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch needs to be engaging and informative. Speak slowly and clearly, and avoid confusing jargon. Practice saying your pitch ahead of time so that you feel confident and prepared during delivery.
Given the short timespan available, it can be tempting to rush and cram in as much detail as possible. However, this is counterproductive. Speak slowly so that your listener can follow along and ask questions as they arise.
Roth stresses the importance of practicing, and practicing often. “An elevator speech should be articulated fluently and effortlessly and, whenever possible, in the vernacular of your audience,” she stresses.
Here are some simple ways to make the most of practicing your elevator pitch:
- Record Yourself: It can be difficult to judge your pitch as you’re giving it. Try recording your voice or filming yourself as you practice your pitch. When you watch it, you’ll be better able to identify areas for improvement.
- Use a Mirror: A low-tech option is to deliver the pitch in front of a mirror. Watching yourself as you speak will allow you to practice keeping your body language professional and welcoming.
- Do a Trial Run: Ask a friend, colleague, or career counselor to watch your elevator pitch and provide feedback. This practice has two benefits. First, it will help you feel more comfortable when you deliver your pitch in a real networking scenario. Second, they will likely pick up on problems that you aren’t aware of.
Kitagawa also recommends keeping your pitch conversational. If it feels one-sided, it’s possible you aren’t engaging your audience. “I recommend everyone drop the 30 seconds of you talking,” he advises. “Instead, use a question. Why? Because talking doesn’t sell. Listening does. If you’re the one doing all the talking, you’ll often miss the opportunity to learn how you can help that person.”
What Not to Do When Giving Your Elevator Pitch
When giving an elevator pitch, avoid rambling, using jargon, or ignoring your audience. Elevator pitches should be conversational, concise, and friendly. You can avoid most pitfalls by practicing your pitch often.
Here are some elevator pitch don’ts to keep in mind:
- Don’t Ramble: “Don’t get distracted and start rambling,” says Schumacher. “How do you avoid that? Practice. Practice saying your pitch out loud repeatedly, until you’re sure you can deliver without a hitch.”
- Don’t Ignore Listener Cues: An elevator pitch should be interactive. If you want to keep your audience engaged, listen to their questions and respond to their nonverbal cues.
- Don’t Be Overly Technical: Focus on pain points that you or your company or idea can address. Roth explains, “You can tweak context and vernacular to accommodate the level of familiarity your audience has with your business or mission. Insiders from your field may be more tolerant of some technical or industry jargon, but don’t go overboard.”
- Don’t Be Shy: Confidence will generate interest and trust. Combat stage fright by practicing regularly.
- Don’t Show Desperation: Elevator pitches are about making connections and starting conversations, not demanding or pleading for help. Remember, desperation can be off-putting.
- Don’t Talk Too Fast: When you speak too quickly, you can make mistakes or trip over your words. Your audience will also be more likely to misunderstand you or lose interest. Practice speaking slowly and clearly.
- Don’t Have Just One Script: “Consider the context in which you are giving the pitch, both the situation and the person. You should adjust the level of detail you go into, formality of the language you use, and key points of your pitch,” says Kitagawa.
- Don’t Monologue: Keep a conversational tone. “Make sure you don’t sound like a robot. You want to be natural,” adds Schumacher.
Listener Cues to Look for During Your Elevator Pitch
Paying attention to your audience can provide vital feedback. Look out for signs such as eye contact and relaxed posture. These signs indicate that your audience is engaging with you. If you notice negative cues such as fidgeting and frowning, have some plans in place to get back on track.
“Imagine meeting someone who interests you romantically,” Roth suggests. “You want to make a memorable introduction and establish what you have in common. But you’re still steps away from asking for a date, let alone proposing marriage. Just like in the dating world, how someone responds to your elevator pitch will signal whether you should stand down, move forward, or move on.”
Look for positive cues as signs that your audience is receiving your pitch well. These cues include eye contact, commentary, and friendly, open body language. “The best cue your pitch is working is when the person you’re talking to starts asking questions. That’s a good sign they’re interested in learning more,” says Kitagawa.
If your pitch isn’t going well, your audience is likely to reveal their disinterest in body language and actions. Lack of eye contact, fidgeting, and frowning are signs that your pitch isn’t establishing the connection you want.
The easiest way to save a pitch is to encourage listener engagement with questions. “If you’re picking up on negative cues, the best thing to do is to ask a question, and then really, genuinely listen to what they have to say,” advises Kitagawa. “This gives the person a chance to explain what they’re thinking, and you a chance to course-correct to get back to how you can help them.”
Refer to the following cheat sheet for a quick overview of the positive and negative cues to look for, as well as some strategies for turning around a pitch that isn’t going well.
Elevator Pitch Examples
We’ve compiled a useful list of correct and incorrect elevator pitch examples for three different encounters: an informational interview, a career fair, and a new business pitch. Use these examples to spark ideas for your own pitch.
Here are some example elevator pitch scripts:
- Correct: I’m studying political science at X University. This summer I worked on Senator A’s reelection campaign, where I focused on social media promotion. I helped launch a TikTok campaign that got over 6 million engagements in the first three weeks. I want to continue doing this after graduation and would love to talk to you about your work. I’m really drawn to the social media campaigns your company has spearheaded, especially the ones for Governor B and Congresswoman C.
- Why It Works: This speaker provides a quick background, notes quantifiable results from previous experience, and gives their listener clear expectations for the conversation. This speaker also demonstrates that they’ve done their research by citing specific campaigns their listener has worked on.
- Incorrect: I’m in my last year at university, so I’m starting to think about jobs. I’m really good at social media, and I’ve taken some classes in communications and political science. I think I want to work on either political campaigns, but I could also be interested in other kinds of marketing. What kinds of jobs can I get at your company?
- Why It Doesn’t Work: This speaker is too vague about their background and experience and doesn’t make it clear what they want from the conversation. The final question presumes that their listener wants to hire them, which could come across as rude.
- Correct: My name is Emma Miller. I’m a second-year MBA student studying business operations. I noticed that you’ve been expanding your verticals. Before starting school, I was an assistant operations manager at a multinational clothing manufacturing company, where I assisted with vertical integrations. I’ve been focusing my coursework on process and systems optimization. I’m currently looking for internships and jobs where I can put those skills to use.
- Why It Works: Emma is clear about who she is, her background and experience, and her goals for the career fair. She also demonstrates that she’s done research on the company and finds a connection to her own experience.
- Incorrect: My name is Sarah Smith, and I’m a second-year MBA student. I’m interested in business operations, but also management. I also have taken some classes on business strategy, which I think I’m pretty good at. I haven’t taken too many classes on corporate finance, but I’m a fast learner. But probably I have the most experience in operations. What jobs are you hiring for?
- Why It Doesn’t Work: Sarah is vague about her experience and interests. She wavers back and forth so that it is unclear what kind of role she wants or would suit her. The final question is one she could easily look up online and suggests that she hasn’t done her research.
New Business Pitch
- Correct: Have you had any nasty surprises on your utility bills? My name is Jim Johnson, and I’ve created and sold four apps to major developers. For the last eight months, my business partner and I have been creating partnerships with local utility companies to develop an app that would allow users to track utility use in real time. Now we’re looking for sponsors so that we can secure enough funding to make this app a reality.
- Why It Works: Jim starts with an attention-grabbing question and transitions smoothly into his introduction and background. He also demonstrates that he has already done work toward this business but doesn’t get into too much technical detail. This way, the listener can engage by asking questions.
- Incorrect: I’m Bob Williams. I want to develop an app that would help people keep track of their utilities. We really need funding to get the ball rolling with this app. I’ve been trying to find investors, but they just aren’t seeing how much value this app has. It would really solve a lot of people’s problems. I promise this will be such a good investment.
- Why It Doesn’t Work: Bob doesn’t include any interesting details so that his listener can connect with or understand his concept. He focuses for too long on the need for funding and not enough on what work, if any, he’s already done. His pitch risks coming across as demanding or desperate.
For a more comprehensive list, including elevator pitch examples by industry, see this collection of elevator pitch examples.
Use Smartsheet to Master Your Elevator Pitch and Get More Business
Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change. The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed. When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.
Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change.
The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed.
When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.