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Elevator Pitch: How to Write One as Your Networking Commercial

Updated on March 3, 2016
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Heidi Thorne is a business author with 25 years experience in marketing and sales including a decade in the hotel and trade show industries.

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What is an Elevator Pitch?

The term elevator pitch (sometimes referred to as an elevator speech, networking commercial, and, in the business vernacular, as a "60-second") is a very brief sales presentation that tells the seller's story in the time it takes for an elevator ride. Depending on the height of the building and how many stops the car makes, that time could be a few seconds up to a couple minutes. Having this pitch ready can help salespeople and business owners be prepared for chance encounters with prospects that may occur in an elevator at any time.

Networking events usually are not held in an elevator, of course. But the elevator pitch concept to create a networking "commercial" has become a standard used for face-to-face events since 30 to 60 seconds might be about all the time you have to connect with a potential prospect.

How to Write an Elevator Pitch

While there is no hard and fast formula and there can be myriad variations, an effective elevator pitch will usually be composed of these elements:

  • Your name, company (optional, but recommended) and what you do (for example, coach, financial planner, etc.—not president, CEO or some other nondescript title).
  • Who you help.
  • How you help.
  • Call to action.
  • Your name, company and title again (although you may wish to just say your name), along with a memorable tagline (optional) at the end.

It really is that simple! But I can't tell you how many elevator pitch fails I've heard over the years where people even forget to say their names.

Note that some networking groups, especially leads groups, may have a specific pitch formula they would like you to use. Use whatever is acceptable for the group.

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"So an Elevator Pitch Needs to be 30 to 60 Seconds. How Many Words is That?"

I've taken my estimates on the number of words needed for a pitch from when I had to write some radio commercials many years ago. My rule of thumb was 25 to 30 words for each 15 seconds. Can you talk much faster than that? You sure can! But when you want people to really hear what you're saying, you need to slow it down, emphasizing each word and not sounding like you're running out of breath (and time!).

Prepare multiple versions of your standard elevator pitch so that you're ready to deliver your message no matter what limited time you will be allowed. On the shortest pitch time (usually around 15 seconds), you may only be able to get in your name and a couple of words about what you do. But be ready for that!

Here's a handy reference:

  • 60 seconds: 100 to 120 words
  • 30 seconds: 50 to 60 words
  • 15 seconds: 25 to 30 words

How and When Should You Deliver Your Elevator Pitch?

In many networking groups and events, there will be a designated activity where attendees are given the opportunity to deliver their elevator pitch either to the entire group or to those people seated immediately around them.

Outside one of these formal activities, you would logically and naturally launch into your pitch when someone new asks what you do. Since you may already have shared your name when you introduce yourself to someone new, you would likely abbreviate your pitch to just include the "what you do" and "who you help" segments. In these cases, you might wind up and extend the conversation with something similar to one of the following:

  • "Have you ever used a service (or product) like this and what was your experience?"

This option would be used if the person you are talking is an ideal candidate. You'd be surprised at what you might hear. Note that after you hear the answer, you shouldn't launch into a full blown sales pitch! But you would want to invite ideal prospects for a more in-depth conversation outside the event.

  • "Is there someone in your network who might be in need of what I have to offer?"

This second option honors the person's network and will encourage him to mentally scan his contacts for a possibility. If the person does have a connection for you, ask for an official introduction, possibly via email or social media. Do NOT contact any potential prospect until it is confirmed that person wants to hear from you. Click here to learn what makes a good referral.

These questions can make these folks dig a little deeper and, we hope, spend a bit more quality time with you.

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

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    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 20 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Heidi

      Thankfully mine looks like it'll only be about 30,000 words!

      Lawrence

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 20 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hello, Lawrence! At least writers get to practice their editing skills when it comes to writing their "commercial." Culture shock for novelists, indeed. :) Good luck as you crunch your story into 60 seconds. Thanks for adding your wit and observation to the conversation. Have a great weekend!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 20 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Heidi

      For us writers the difficulty is 'cutting things down' to the word length. A good one or two sentences as a pitch for any concept is hard to write at times especially when you've just spent forty to fifty thousand words in the novel!

      Great concepts here, it's the translating it that's the hard part.

      Lawrence

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 20 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi shanmarie! :) It is simple. But "simple" does not always mean "easy." Going through the elevator speech exercise is good for many situations. So it's worthwhile to think about, regardless of whether a sales career is in your future or not. Thanks for stopping by and chiming in! Have a great weekend!

    • shanmarie profile image

      shanmarie 20 months ago

      Interesting! This is why I would not be a good sales person. Hahaha. I never would have thought to prepare an elevator speech. Yet it seems so simple.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 21 months ago from Chicago Area

      It sure is, FlourishAnyway! We all need to be ready to pitch our value... at all times. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 21 months ago from USA

      Great idea for any professional!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 21 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Ron! Indeed I think they should teach the "elevator pitch" skill in college. It is, as you noted for your wife's employment workshops, a necessary skill. Glad to hear you've been able to use it for your ministry. Another great application! Thanks for adding these additional applications to the conversation! Appreciate your support. Have a great weekend!

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 21 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      The elevator pitch seems to have utility in several different areas. I was first introduced to it as a means of succinctly sharing the ministry of our church with someone who might be interested. My wife leads employment workshops, and teaches it to job seekers. Now, you show how it's used in sales. It's a good multi-purpose skill to have.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 21 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi purl3agony! True, having to condense your story into 30 to 60 seconds really does help you focus. Thank you so much for sharing the post on your board. Appreciate your support. Have a great day!

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 21 months ago from USA

      Hi Heidi - I've had to create elevator speeches at a couple of my jobs. I thought it was a very good experience to be able to concisely describe your product/mission/business/job in about 30 seconds. I like how you broke down the elements of a good elevator speech. Pinning on my business/non-profit board. Thanks!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 21 months ago from Chicago Area

      Wow, cygnetbrown, you're multi-talented! I've seen many in your situation try to cram all they do into a single pitch. It's difficult! I'd be more inclined to create one for each of your roles and use the one most appropriate for the audience you want to reach at each specific event. Remember, you usually only get 30 to 60 seconds. If your main message is muddled or complex, it'll be difficult for your audience to absorb it in that short a time. Thanks for bringing that issue into the conversation! Have a great day!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 21 months ago from Chicago Area

      Billybuc, I'm sure your pitch will be fantastic! Plus, it's always a work in progress. I change mine up all the time... add this, take out that. Let 'em know what a rock star you are. Thanks for the sunny comments from the Left Coast!

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 21 months ago from Springfield, Missouri

      I am a nonfiction writer, a novelist and a pastor of a church, how would I incorporate all of those into a single elevator pitch or would I need several elevator pitches?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 21 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Just what I need, something else to think about. LOL You got me on this one. I don't have an elevator pitch but you can bet I'll have one by this time next week.

      Happy Wednesday from sunny Olympia