One of the biggest challenges when creating a startup is quickly pitching your idea. You know your concept inside and out, but often you need to quickly tell a potential customer, investor, or mentor about your idea in a way that’s natural, easy to understand, and concise. Cue the elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is akin to a sales pitch but it’s done quickly, sometimes unexpectedly, and without any visual aids. Here’s tips to craft your perfect pitch:

1. Narrow your idea

Be able to convey your overall idea in one-sentence. Early on, Airbnb’s one-sentence pitch was “Book rooms with locals, rather than hotels.” Your one-sentence should be your lead in. Once you say it, pause and allow for your idea to sink in. If you need ideas, ask your family and friends to get a fresh outside perspective.

2. Ask a question

This engages your audience. It should be a simple and straightforward yes or no question. You don’t want the question to be difficult as that makes people uncomfortable and puts them on the spot. An easy question is a relevant statistic such as “Did you know that when traveling 70% of people would prefer to stay in a unique one-of-a-kind accommodation rather than a hotel?” People will either say yes, which means they are informed on the topic (a good sign), or no which informs and engages them.

3. Listen

As you end your pitch your natural tendency may be to keep talking. Be silent. Be patient. Wait for their response. If they are interested they will ask more probing questions, if not, thank them for their time and respectfully let them go. If you have their contact info you can always follow up later.

Girl Pitching her Startup Idea

Things to Remember in an Elevator Pitch

  1. Simplicity is key: The elevator pitch is about high-level concepts, not nitty-gritty details.
  2. Practice, practice, practice (and then practice some more): Your pitch is about the ideas you are sharing, but not the specific words. Record your pitch and listen to yourself and practice giving it to close family/friends. Even though it will be well rehearsed, it should still sound natural.
  3. Appeal to a person’s self-interest, not to their pity: People want solutions to their problems and they are interested in things that can help them. Your pitch should make the value to the listener clear. 
  4. The follow-up is critical. Be sure to ask how you may get in touch with the person at the end of your pitch.

Things to Avoid in an Elevator Pitch

  1. Too much information: Rambling will lose their interest, keep it succinct. 
  2. Memorized lines: If you memorize lines you lose your authenticity and your audience. Get the basics down and talk to them naturally.
  3. Talking too fast: Don’t rush the pitch but hold a steady pace so your listener can keep up.
  4. Too many details: What you want is to get your listener eager to hear more. Give them just enough to whet their appetite but don’t bog them down with too many details/specifics. 
  5. Proper manners: Remember to still greet the person hello and goodbye, no matter how interested they are or aren’t. Also, don’t forget to smile!

Following these tips will help ensure you’re ready to pitch your product or idea whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. Want to learn more? Click here to check out an example elevator pitch.

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