The Elevator Pitch — how good is yours?

Posted on 21/07/2023 by Karen

An Elevator Pitch, also called an Elevator Spiel, is a very quick introduction about yourself.

Imagine you're in an elevator with someone and they ask what you do. You only have a very short time to tell them, before they get to their floor, get off the elevator and they're gone. You've probably got about 10 seconds.


You only get one chance to make a good first impression

Most people find an elevator pitch very hard to do, in fact I wish I had a dollar for every person at a networking function that totally stuffed it up. They are just not ready, don't know what to say, fumble and mumble or start ranting with enthusiasm and babble on so much that the person listening is totally overwhelmed and then walks away, eyes glazed over, still having absolutely no idea what that person does. A missed opportunity that you may never get again.

It usually goes a bit like this

Me: "Hi, what do you do?"

IT dude: "I work in computers..."

Me, who is still none the wiser, thinks

"O-ka-a-ay? So, do you make them? sell them? fix them? do coding?"

See what I mean?


I was not their mum

I often had to stand by at networking functions and bite my tongue while they stumbled and mumbled. This was really hard for me, because if I knew them — and even if I had just met them and prised out of them what exactly it was that they did — I knew what they should have been saying. I really, really, really wanted to help them but I wasn't their mum. It wouldn't have looked good. They needed to do it themselves. I did sometimes say to them later, "Hey, I can help you if you ever want to work on your elevator pitch, here's my card..."


Same for your home page

When I ran workshops to help people work out what to write for their website, the elevator pitch was the first thing we did. I got my participants to get into pairs, introduce themselves and then help each other fine-tune their elevator spiel by asking questions and going back and forth. Writing it down, then editing, editing, editing again. This was the start of the information that they were going to put on their website's home page. Because your home page should be a quick introduction to you, too.


Why I had to change my own elevator spiel

It was my first year in business and I was a few weeks into my networking. Despite being very articulate, it was not going well. Nobody seemed to understand or be interested in what I did. I knew this, because they would smile, nod, take my card and then just walk away.


Finally the penny dropped

I realised I had to stop saying the word 'copywriter'. People just didn't know what it meant! Now, this was back in the day, before Gruen Transfer, Mad Men, etc and the word copywriter wasn't really in use outside of advertising agencies.

When I said the word 'copywriter' they saw this symbol in their mind © and then thought that I was a copyright or patent lawyer. Of course they glazed over, said 'seeya' and walked away, lol!


So I dumbed it down

I don't say that with any disrespect, but way too often we use jargon that someone outside our industry simply does not understand. Once I realised what was happening, I dropped the jargon and started saying this instead...


"Hi, I'm a writer. I help people with the words on their website."

Once I got it right, I was inundated with people wanting to talk about writing, design, good and bad advertising, and much more. Because everyone's got an opinion! It led to great conversations and, sometimes, work.

It was also a very good learning experience. So, I reckon I can help you. If you need to get a better elevator pitch, please give me a call