How to Make an Elevator Pitch ...

An Elevator Pitch is succinct and persuasive sales spiel that takes about as long as riding an elevator from the ground to floor 42 (30 seconds, give or take). Some humor intended!  It's Bill and Melinda Gates in the elevator with you, by chance, and 30 seconds is all you're going to get!  Are you ready?

  1. Begin with an end in mind: What is it that you are looking to gain? Most often the pitch is used as a tool to capture enough interest to warrant a formal
  2. Sell, Sell, Sell: What are you really selling? You are selling yourself! You're selling your dream. Be confident and show your passion.
  3. Keep it simple: You should deliver a clear, compelling and simple image of your opportunity that is easy to remember and repeat. You want the audience to say, "I get it!"
  4. Image is everything: The pitch must implant a clear image of your opportunity in the mind of the audience.
  5. Adapt your presentation to the audience: The same pitch you use for an investor might not be the same as to a supplier. (For the sake of simplicity, the term audience is used in a generic sense to include an investor, supplier, employee, customer or even a judge in a competition.)
  6. Lay out the benefits: Demonstrate how your business will impact consumers and showcase the return to the investors.
  7. Differentiate yourself from the competition: Focus on outlining the special features of your product/service that gives you the edge over the competition. Time permitting, summarize the competitors and insert facts or statistics where necessary.
  8. Don't forget the numbers: Depending on the audience, you need to insert a snapshot of your financials and other critical data. For example, "In year three we expect to capture 3 percent of the market, giving us $30 million in sales revenue." Investors also want to know the amount of investment you need and the return on investment (ROI).
  9. Be memorable: Use your creativity and imagination. Put a tag on it! For example: Chevy - Like a rock. Nike - Just do it! BMW - The ultimate driving machine.
  10. Conclude with a call to action: For example, "Thank you for the opportunity to pitch my idea. I'd be glad to provide greater detail over a lunch." The best pitch is useless without any follow-up action.
  11. Practice! Practice! Practice! While there are always a few naturally-gifted speakers out there, the more you rehearse your pitch the more natural it will flow and the more confident you will appear. Remember that showing confidence and passion helps sell your idea.  Practice, yes, but don't memorize and start sounding rehearsed ... go with the flow of the listener!
  12. Don't give up: Some people may not understand your opportunity at first, so don't get discouraged or quit. Walt Disney pitched his idea for Mickey Mouse to more than 300 banks before he received funding.  (Now that's a Mickey Mouse pitch I would love to have heard!)
Formatting the Pitch ... No matter what your business opportunity might be, you need to have a format for the pitch. While there are certainly countless ways to format the pitch, I strongly urge you to consider the following example. It's brilliant! I only wish I could take credit, however it was presented by renowned business strategist Geoffrey Moore in his best selling book "Crossing the Chasm." You may have noticed that many TV commercials currently use a rendition of his format.

Pitch Structure ... For who are dissatisfied with , is a that provides . Unlike a , we have assembled . We will initially target the since they solves this problem by . Also, these frequently influence by .

Example - Palm Pilot ... For traveling executives who are dissatisfied with Franklin Planners, the Palm Pilot is a personal digital assistant that provides rapid access to phone numbers and appointments. Unlike the Sharp Wizard, the Pilot can easily synchronize your data with your PC and fits in your shirt pocket. We will initially target the 83,000 pharmaceutical sales reps in the U.S., since they are mobile and must frequently reschedule appointments, where each missed appointment equates to $2k of lost revenue. The Palm gives them access to their business contact list and appointments at their fingertips. Also, these sales reps will introduce the Palm to doctors, our next target customer set.

Example - Broadway Pizza ... From artichokes to zucchini, Broadway Pizza offers the largest selection of pie toppings in the world along with boutique beverages in a music-filled, fun-packed bistro environment. In the next five years, we will launch 24 Broadway Pizza Parlors in Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, Colorado, and Nevada reaching annual revenues of $30 million.

Sad Story: When I was teaching entrepreneurship classes at the University of Arizona, I had several students that were going to have an opportunity to meet Warren Buffet. As it turned out, one of them actually rode in the car with Mr Buffet from the office building to a restaurant for lunch. I asked her, "Did you give him your elevator pitch for your venture when you were in the car?"  "No," she said, quite understandably, "I was way too nervous!  But I did pitch him later that afternoon!"  I'd like to finish this little ditty by saying, "The rest is history ... Warren funded her venture and now it's worth several billion bucks!"  Unfortunately ... not.

[Thank you, Troy Byrd, edits by Jim]