5 Reasons Everybody Needs an Elevator Pitch — Even You!

An elevator pitch is a succinct, persuasive speech that you give to spark someone's interest in something. It can be yourself, your business, a product or service, an idea, a song, a movie, or, well … anything you want to promote.

As the name suggests, it must be short. The usual length of time associated with the elevator pitch is 30 seconds; and even that is pushing it. You need to get it just right, or risk stony faces and poor first impressions.

Here are five reasons why you need to get your elevator pitch spot on, with some tips along the way.

1. Opportunity usually knocks just once

That one shot at great success can come and go in an instant. You may have been perfecting a product or service for a decade, and then out of nowhere, you bump into the one person who can turn that dream into a reality. You've got them for less than a minute. If your elevator pitch is solid, it can open new doors for you, and lead to great things. If your pitch is unrehearsed, haphazard, and meandering, you've lost them … potentially forever. You don't get two bites at this cherry, so it is imperative that you nail it.

A helpful tip

Grab a pen and paper, and write down your reasons for giving this pitch. What one thing do you want someone to get from it? Don't give them a lot of balls to catch, they don't have time to grab more than one. Identify the most important thing, and craft your pitch around that.

2. You cannot rely on improvisation

Many people think that they know enough to simply "wing it" should they ever need to give an elevator pitch. For a select few, this might work. For the rest of us, it just doesn't. Once we get asked "What is it that you do?" or "What is your big idea?" we instantly become tongue-tied. All the great things we were planning to say fly right out of our heads, and we find ourselves getting hot and flustered, grasping for clichés and feeling increasingly defeated. Remember the first and biggest point; you get one shot at this. You should know this speech so well you can recite it in your sleep.

A helpful tip

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. You have ample time to get this right, and you should use that time to your advantage. Write it down, edit it, practice it in front of friends and colleagues, and make changes based on their feedback. Keep doing this until you have it perfected, and then, practice again. Say it in front of the mirror before you go to work. Recite it before bed. By the time you have to finally give the speech, it's almost like muscle memory. Your brain will kick into autopilot and you'll deliver it without any fear or confusion.

3. It can change your life

It's not hyperbole to say that a great elevator pitch can change your life for the better. The best examples you will see of good (and bad) elevator pitches come from the TV show Shark Tank. In it, entrepreneurs and inventors face five rich investors (also known as sharks) and have just minutes to pitch them their idea. Some people fall flat on their faces. But those who combine a great product with a killer elevator pitch see their lives change drastically over the coming years.

A perfect example is Aaron Krause, who invented the Scrub Daddy. His pitch was perfect. He'd practiced it almost daily for years, and by the time his moment came, he was ready. One shark (Lori Greiner) bit, and gave him over $200,000. Aaron is now a multimillionaire. Dreams can come true, but you need to help them along.

A helpful tip

Believe in yourself and what you're selling. Krause was a natural, and was easy to like, because he loved his invention and loved talking about it even more. The nerves didn't show. His character shone through, his excitement was palpable, and he left the sharks feeling very good about his pitch. If you don't believe in the words coming out of your mouth, no amount of salesmanship will help. You must be all in.

4. Someone else is perfecting his or her elevator pitch right now

That's right. Somewhere, someone is selling whatever it is you're selling. And if it's yourself, remember that people are vying for the same jobs, and you have stiff competition. There's a good chance someone is already a few steps ahead of you. All they have to do is outshine you, and they come out ahead.

A great example of this comes from the story of two explorers who hear a tiger approaching. When one starts putting on his sneakers, he's asked by his colleague, "What are you doing? You'll never outrun a tiger." He responds, "I don't have to outrun the tiger; I just have to outrun you." Don't be the one left behind.

A helpful tip

Make it memorable. How you do this is up to you, but consider that the person you're pitching to will probably hear a lot of these proposals during his or her career. How are you going to make yours stand out for all the right reasons? How are you going to slap them in the face, but leave them feeling good about it? Do you have a leave-behind, or a unique business card? Do it right, and you win.

5. It gives you focus and direction

Finally, one of the great benefits of a solid elevator pitch is that is makes you really pay attention to what is important to you, what you want, and what you don't want. Figure out what that is, and write it down.

When you're going over your first draft, ask your practice audience what they got from your pitch. Then, compare their answer to that one thing you wrote down earlier. Are they in alignment? After this feedback, you'll edit, and edit, and edit some more. You will not only develop a great script, but ideas that will help whatever you're promoting become even better.

A helpful tip

After writing your pitch down over and over, make sure you have some kind of call to action, or hook that leaves people wanting to ask for more. The edits can often kick out your original verbiage that asks the target audience for their help or involvement, but it's important to keep this in. Tell them what you want them to do next. This is sales 101.

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