You know you need an elevator pitch. If you have one, are you confident that it works? What are the secrets to crafting an authentic elevator pitch that properly introduces you but doesn’t come across as forced or salesy? What if there were an elevator pitch template you could use to shortcut this process and ensure your success?
Writing (and presenting!) your elevator pitch can be one of the most daunting aspects of your career development or job search process. There is indeed a methodology to create a great pitch. Best of all, you can continue to revise and refine it to make it better and better. Let’s explore this elevator pitch template to help you craft a brief, compelling description of the value you deliver to prospective employers, partners, clients, or investors. But first…
Are We On the Same Pitch Page?
Most of what I’ve read about elevator pitches relates to selling your product or your service — not to selling you. Yes, most of us have a hard time talking about ourselves or selling ourselves, but having a good pitch is a must-have professional and life skill. If “your network is your net worth,” then you’re going to have to get comfortable with the idea of creating an effective elevator pitch.
The value of the elevator speech is critical. It:
- Builds confidence. You know what you’re going to say so you can get right to the point.
- Sets the agenda for your target. Instantly describes the value you deliver.
- Builds rapport. Shows that you understand what they need.
When you think about it, an elevator pitch is actually an offer. You’re presenting an opportunity for someone to learn more about what you can do to help make their business more successful.
How Not to Feel So Anxious About Your Elevator Pitch
Feeling anxious is a normal psychological response to introducing yourself to a prospective business contact. How many times have you wanted to approach a speaker at the end of a presentation or a panel discussion and just felt too intimidated or tongue-tied to go through with it?
Why put yourself in the spotlight if what you’re going to say comes off as stupid or uninformed? Why risk the awkwardness or the potential embarrassment?
Know that it’s a solvable problem. There are three keys:
- Format. You have created a prepared, proven structure for your question, comment, or pitch.
- Context. You only make your pitch if you can clearly and directly relate your pitch to the target’s role, the reason they’re there in front of you, or the theme/topic of the event you’re attending.
- Practice. You’ve spent the time to learn your pitch, and you’ve delivered it enough times in different circumstances.
Remember, this is a life skill and a career skill that you can learn. Know that if it feels really uncomfortable the first few times you take the risk, it will get easier as you become more familiar with the process.
Pro Tip: Think of yourself as a performer, i.e. someone who is playing a role. If you assume the role of “Smart Person Who Asks Good Questions,” how would that change your attitude and demeanor when you’re in front of your target? Would you stand a little taller? Ask your question or deliver your pitch with more confidence?
The Dreaded “So, Tell Me About Yourself” Question
Job interviews often start with this question. Conventional wisdom says that you should answer it in a fairly passive way, simply talking about your background, your current or recent job responsibilities, and why you’re applying for the open position at hand.
Using your elevator pitch as the basis for your answer helps you come across as more intentional and more proactive. If you have struggled in the past to prepare for this question, the elevator pitch template will help you ease into it.
In fact, there are many personal and professional situations where an easy, seemingly effortless, off-the-cuff elevator pitch will break the ice, instantly build rapport, and put you at the center of an interesting and productive conversation. These include not just the job interview or networking event, but social occasions as well. You never know who you’re going to meet at a barbeque or a dinner party. They may have relevant business connections that you’ll want to take advantage of.
And by the way, that “tell me about yourself” question can come in different forms, from “how did you get into this business?” to a very simple “what’s going on in your world?” question.
If you think about and use the elevator pitch across this range of situations, you’ll develop greater mastery over your pitch, and be able to adapt and modify it as needed.
So if you’ve been confused or hesitant to actually sit down and spend some concerted time working on your elevator pitch, don’t put this off any longer. Using the elevator pitch template will give you a solid framework that you can adapt across these and other situations.
Elevator Pitch Template Basics
The cardinal rule of a great elevator pitch is that it should be short and demonstrate your value in under one minute. It also must have flow, a purpose, and a hook to spark interest.
Think of classical storytelling: almost every story has three acts. The beginning sets the stage and introduces the characters, the middle develops the conflict and character dynamics, and the end brings everything to a resolution. This structure is not just limited to plays, books, TV, or films. It is also widely used as a core approach to marketing.
Your pitch should also be structured like a story.
- Start with who you are (type of role, experience level, desired position).
- Explain what you do and/or deliver (stress accomplishments over responsibilities).
- State your intention (what you want, what you’ll deliver, how it relates to your target, and what the value will be for them).
Your elevator pitch is your business card in action. It’s the beginning of what could be a longer-term relationship. Your only expectation is for them to listen to your pitch. They may or may not react. It may be right for them or not. Don’t worry about that. If you are able to clearly and succinctly make your pitch, they will at least have a clear understanding of your “ask” or your intention.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all method to create an effective elevator pitch, if you learn these principles, you’ll be able to create the right story for you. Here’s how to tackle each act of your elevator pitch template.
Pro Tip: Make sure that each of your elevator pitch “acts” is one or two sentences – no more! In the end, your elevator pitch will be between three and six sentences long.
Elevator Pitch Template Act 1: You
Start with an introduction. Draw from your background and your personal story. It might be about what you stand for, what you’ve done, your training, or your credentials. It could also be about your current and most recent work, even your mission. The goal here is to establish your:
Elevator Pitch Template Act 2: Opportunity
Pivot to the specific problem-solution part of your elevator pitch. This is where you describe the problems and challenges you solve for that clearly relate to the concerns of your target. Include information and statistics to establish your expertise and relevance. You want your target to quickly understand that you know what you’re talking about and they should hear you out. This is where you dangle the opportunity that they’ll be looking for: the problem they’re looking to solve.
Just as the hero is often in jeopardy at the end of the second act, and the audience is wondering how they’re going to save the day, your Act 2 should leave your target wondering how you’re going to propose solving their problem.
Elevator Pitch Template Act 3: Outcome/Transformation
Your final statement will be about the change you deliver (or propose to deliver). All compelling stories are about change and transformation. In this final part, you combine WHO you are (Act 1) with WHAT you do (Act 2) to deliver a specific outcome.
Again, each elevator pitch is an expression of the person’s combination of background, abilities, and skills that apply to a particular opportunity. Your outcome or transformation may be based on applying previous achievements and methodologies to a new challenge. It may be more entrepreneurial, solving a problem with a sensible, intriguing, but untested solution. Whatever the case, your goal is to connect with your target’s situation, their needs and problems, or the untapped opportunity that you see for them.
Your elevator pitch should propose one or more of the following:
- Quantifiable change
- Qualitative change
- Strategic benefit
- The cost of inaction
Elevator Pitch Template: Next Steps
The bad news will be that your target is not interested in what you’re proposing. This is actually the easy part. If you’ve stated your pitch well, then this is clearly not for them.
The good news will be that you’ve grabbed their attention and they want to hear more. You have to be prepared to address their questions, including the open-ended “OK. You’ve got my attention.”
Here are some ideas to consider for how to pursue your conversation and potentially get one step closer to your goal:
- Call-to-action. State the next thing that you or your target can do to take advantage of your offer. It could be setting up a meeting, sending them some information over email, or referring them to a website.
- Documentation/Backup. Be prepared to provide more information on the spot if they question your proposal, your facts, or your solution. Promising to send them the information may not impress them and they may discard the email when it arrives if you haven’t sufficiently impressed them at your pitch.
- Proposal. Be ready to elaborate on your pitch with an actual proposal. Lay out the main points verbally so that they understand that you have thought everything out. Ensure that what you send them to confirm the proposal is identical point-for-point with no discrepancies.
- Testimonials. Share the names and experiences of prior employers, clients, or customers to confirm your credibility. Don’t be coy about this. You should be forthcoming and transparent about the people who support and believe in you or your project (if you’re pitching a startup, e.g.). Prepare for this by making sure that those people are OK with being mentioned as references.
- Mini-offer/Micro-commitment. In some situations, if you’re selling a product or service, you might consider offering your target an inexpensive introductory item so they can experience what you’re selling without making a big commitment. This could be a free or low-cost consulting session or some other offer that lets them get more familiar with you and what you’re selling so that they can make a larger purchase down the line.
Pro Tips for a Successful Elevator Pitch Template:
Whether you present your elevator pitch at a virtual event, a job interview, a networking event, in a casual setting, or through a Zoom interview, follow these pro tips:
Pro Tip 1: Use Your LinkedIn About Section
Your “About” section is a great sandbox to format your elevator pitch. Although it is likely longer than six sentences, it’s a great way to experiment with the storytelling structure to see what works. Get feedback from your network, friends, and peers. Use your About section as a longer, more descriptive, less “pitchy” version of your elevator pitch.
Pro Tip 2: Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice helps you build more confidence and helps your elevator pitch sound more natural. Make a habit of practicing your pitch regularly.
Deliver it in the mirror. Better yet: work with your friends or colleagues and pitch to each other. Time yourself!
Don’t stop there. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and into a real event. Join a colleague at a networking or industry gathering and act as one another’s wing person to present your elevator pitch to other attendees. Give one another feedback on how you did. Make it into a fun game and see who makes the most connections by the end of the event.
Referencing back to the beginning of this article, when you are attending a presentation or panel discussion, introduce yourself to a speaker, especially if you’ve felt intimidated in the past. Act despite your fear. The more you practice and engage with your discomfort, the better and more persuasive your pitch will sound.
Pro Tip 3: Invent Your Own Perfect Elevator Pitch Template
Take what you’ve learned through this experience to the next level. Make your elevator pitch template more personal, more resonant, and more applicable to you. Keep the three-act structure, but create your own “acts.”
How do you know you’re going in the right direction?
Watch people’s reactions: if their eyes light up, and they relax and lean in towards you, it means you’re doing great. If not, go back to the drawing board.
Remember: you can’t fake it. The more authentic you are, the more your elevator pitch will connect.
Above all, keep going!
Have some ideas on what makes a good elevator pitch? Let me know in the comments.