What is an Elevator Pitch, what is the underlying concept and what examples and applications exist?
Compressed Advertising for a Cause
A pitch describes the concise verbal presentation of an idea within a short period of time. An elevator pitch limits the presentation to the duration of a ride in an elevator. The aim is to attract the attention and interest of a decision-maker in order to promote a concern – e.g. an idea, a suggestion for improvement, a decision, a product or a service.
The term “pitch” is widely used in the agency and advertising industry. Agencies compete for customers in order to convince them of themselves, an idea or a concept. They pursue the goal of winning over the customer within a short period of time. In order to create the same conditions for all participants in the competition, the available time is usually defined in advance; a significant difference to the “original” elevator pitch, where the available time is unclear, provided that it is actually a joint ride with the elevator. Other differences are the use of presentation materials and presentation as a team.
Alternative terms for Elevator Pitch include Elevator Speech and Elevator Statement. The term elevator presentation, which can sometimes be read, is practically not used.
Prerequisites for an Elevator Pitch
There are three prerequisites for a successful elevator pitch:
- One idea.
- The preparation: What is the benefit of the idea? What is the message in a few words?
- The appropriate opportunity, e.g. a joint ride with the designated target person in the elevator or a concrete request from this person, e.g. in the course of a presentation: “Give me your elevator pitch!
From these points also the essential advantage results: Clarity over the own position, the own goal or the own idea. And thus an advantage over all others who do not have the necessary clarity or cannot communicate it within the shortest possible time.
The Elevator Pitch as a Chance
Of course, it is not “fair” not to have enough time to verbally describe a “legitimate” interest or a good idea. In times in which the attention span often doesn’t last long and people are confronted with many impressions, you can get annoyed about it: Or: see the elevator pitch as an opportunity. It is an occasion to arouse interest, to find comrades-in-arms, to outline positive perspectives and to convey enthusiasm. It is a pity not to use this chance by not grasping it as such, even ignoring it or letting it pass due to lack of clarity.
In addition, the short pitch offers a chance for “more”: an idea can rarely be “sold” within 20 or 30 seconds. The time for this is simply too short. From this perspective, it would be wrong to aim for such selling as a goal. The chance lies after the elevator pitch, in a subsequent exchange, a dialogue or a scheduled presentation. With more time for a constructive exchange of opinions, positions and ideas.
The Elevator Pitch Concept
Even though time is short, there are several pieces of information that could/should be part of an elevator pitch. Of course, the content and scope will depend on the actual time available. Very few elevators run 2 minutes until they reach their destination. So if the pitch really takes place in an elevator, then exactly one piece of information can be transported. This information must arouse the attention and interest of the target person. At this moment. That means it must be catchy and memorable, and ideally contain a promise. A promise of what the idea, the service or the product will improve in the future. In marketing, people also like to talk about AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action – i.e. generating attention, arousing interest, triggering desire and provoking an action, e.g. through an appeal. An example: “Hello Mr. Meyer (CEO), Jennifer Mueller my name. I work in product development and have dealt with the problem X that our company has already had for 12 months. I have a great idea of how we can not only solve the problem at short notice, but also win new customers at the same time. We do it like Apple, but 50% cheaper. In just 10 minutes, I’ll outline the solution and the big advantage. Can you take these 10 minutes today?”
If there is a given time frame, e.g. for a presentation or a scheduled meeting, the following information could / should be transported (at least in parts):
- Entry: Who are you?
- Problem: Which problem do you solve?
- Solution: How do you solve the problem? Gladly argue with examples and pictures: “Like Google, only with language on the TV.”
- Advantage: What is the advantage of the solution? Is it a monetary advantage, does the image increase, are delivery times reduced, etc? Does the advantage express itself in ONE key figure?
- Time: Why is now the right time for the solution?
If the solution is a new product / a new market for the company, further information can be important:
- Market: Which market is it? Where is it, how big is it, which market shares and sales can be achieved in which time periods? As with the elevator pitch, it is advisable not to promise too much but to communicate a serious, well-founded position.
- Business model: How does the business model work to address the market with the new solution?
- Investment: How big is the investment to turn the idea into a product and to achieve market shares and sales?
And last but not least:
- Summary: A catchy message that summarises the whole in as few words as possible.
By the way: In 30 seconds, about 75 words can be spoken. With the Elevator Pitch, in addition to the information mentioned, the actual idea and the presentation, one thing is important: “Keep it short and sweet!”
Examples and Situations for an Elevator Pitch
There are countless situations and places in which an elevator pitch and thus the transmission of an intended message is required:
- In the elevator. Even though the elevator is the eponym for pitching compressed messages, in reality elevator pitching rarely takes place in elevators. If, however, the opportunity presents itself to promote an idea in the elevator, in the hallway, in the coffee kitchen, in the canteen or at a parking machine, the opportunity must be seized.
- On the phone. When it comes to making phone calls, the message is: “Keep it short and simple”. So: it’s about the idea, the problem, the solution and the advantages.
- At the interview. Far away from typical phrases, it is a good idea in job interviews to formulate yourself, your attitudes, motives or goals concisely. (Here it is recommended to know the third why.)
- At trade fairs. Perhaps you know speeches that begin with “May I disturb you for a moment?” or “May I ask you why you are here at the trade fair?” To use the picture of the elevator: it has already reached its floor without the question poser having even a slight chance of a successful pitch. Too bad, actually.
- At conferences and bar camps. There are events at which speakers are given the opportunity to advertise for themselves and their contribution for a minute at the beginning of the event: The aim is to motivate the audience to attend the session, e.g. because they can take something with them (knowledge, news, an idea, etc.).
What these examples have in common is that communication preparation is possible in the run-up to contact, regardless of whether contact is established or not. Whether the establishment of contact works or not, can be coincidence, whether it succeeds however, is no coincidence. The better the preparation, the higher the chance that it will succeed.
Areas of application for an elevator pitch
Just as there are countless situations and places for an elevator pitch, there can be numerous areas of application:
- In a sales pitch, a “seller” tries to advertise himself, his product or his service within a very short time.
- At the startup pitch, business ideas are presented to potential investors. Usually this is done orchestrated, i.e. in a setting with different startup representatives and one or more investors.
- Within companies e.g.
in idea management,
in project management, in advertising for future projects,
on project markets, when individual projects are trying to attract competitors (project markets can be a feature of agile organisations),
in development, when salespeople promote the implementation of features that deliver significant benefits to their customers,
in marketing, when it comes to the allocation of advertising budgets.
In reality, there are almost infinite applications for an elevator pitch. The producer pitches his idea to the director, the software developer inspires his colleagues with a groundbreaking technology, and colleagues from middle management are looking for comrades-in-arms for a company spin-off. The closer you “look”, the more often you find the elevator pitch in daily interaction. One thing remains clear: with good preparation, an idea can be presented concisely. So prepare yourself well for your next elevator pitch.