How to Write and Elevator Pitch

How to write a clear and effective elevator pitch

How to make an elevator pitch

Before you start making your elevator pitch, there are a number of things that are important to know. You need to understand what an elevator pitch is and why they are important. Also, you need to know how to write one, and to help you do that, it is a good idea to look at some examples and tips.

What is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is a short presentation that usually is under two minutes in length. It could even be under one minute. The reason why it is called an elevator pitch is because the duration of the presentation is about the same as how long it takes to ride an elevator to the top of a tall building. Another way in which the term elevator pitch could be explained is that it was based on the hypothetical situation that you could run into an important business executive while sharing an elevator and that you would have the length of the ride to run your business idea by him/her.

An elevator pitch could be about yourself – for instance, if you are looking for a job – or it could be about a business idea, a product or a service.

Why is an elevator pitch important?

You could look at an elevator pitch as a mini-presentation that is always ready to go, and there is a variety of reasons why it is helpful to have one. First of all, an elevator pitch could serve as a good icebreaker to start a conversation and it is a useful way to get a lot of information across in a short time. Also, your pitch could work as an effective transition from the online-version of you, to the real-life version of you. It could serve as a way to be more than a person on a phone or a screen and could help you to make an impression. A well-prepared elevator pitch also helps you in exciting or stressful situations in which you want to rely on information that you have already thought about and prepared. Finally, an elevator pitch may also create opportunities for you to take the lead in conversations in which you need to make an impact.

How to write an elevator pitch

An effective elevator pitch is made up of four parts. First, you need to introduce yourself in a way that is short but memorable. Also, you need to provide a summary of what you do. This is important because it helps the listener to assess whether you, or the idea, product or service you provide, could be of help. Once you have made this clear to your audience, you need to explain what you want. In other words, this is the part in which you explain what you have to offer, or which problem you solving. Finally. your elevator pitch should always end with a call to action. This means that you have to make something happen that will help you to maintain the relationship between you and the person you are pitching to. This could be trying to set up a meeting, offering to call, sending an email, etc.

Now let’s look at these four elements in a bit more detail.

Explaining who you are

When you meet someone for the first time, you need to say hello and give your full name. Depending on what the custom is, you accompany this with a handshake, or a bow, etc. After that, you may want to add a pleasantry like, ‘It’s nice to meet you.’, ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you.’ or something along those lines.

Explaining what you do

Explaining what you do starts with describing your background and briefly giving an overview of your education. This helps your listener to determine who you are. After that, you need to explain what your work experience is, so the person you are pitching to can assess whether your skills and your background could be useful. It also helps to emphasize any specialties or strengths you may have, because these may set you apart from potential competitors. Here’s an example of how to introduce yourself and explain what you do:

Hi, my name is Yui. It’s so nice to meet you! I’m a PR manager with a special focus on overseeing successful initiative launches from beginning to end. Along with my seven years of professional experience, I recently graduated with an MBA from Osaka University, with a focus on consumer trust and retention…

Explaining what you want

After you have explained who you are and have told your listener a bit about your background, you need to make clear what you want. What that is depends on the situation, of course. You may want to pitch yourself, an idea you have, a product of a service, but what all these have in common is that they should all include an ‘ask’. In your ask’ you specifically state the goal of your pitch. This could be a job opportunity, an internship, or just the contact information for a follow-up meeting.

Secondly, you need to explain the ‘value’ you bring to the table. In other words, you need the explain what your audience has to gain by listening to you so they understand what you have to offer.  Let’s look at the following example:

I find the work your PR team does to be innovating and refreshing—I’d love the opportunity to put my expertise to work for your company…

Finishing with a call to action

Now that your audience knows who you are, what you do, and what you want, you need to end your pitch with a call to action, in which you explain what you would like to happen next. This could be a request for setting up a meeting, getting the opportunity to express your interest in a job, etc. What is important is that you make something happen that will lead to further contact between you and the people you spoke to.

If your request is agreed to, you need to thank your audience for their time and obtain their contact information. Be sure to end your conversation with a ‘task-oriented’ goodbye, like:

Thank you for your time. I will send you a follow-up email tonight. Have a great day.

Here is another example:

Would you mind if I set up a quick call next week for us to talk about any upcoming opportunities on your team?

Examples

As mentioned, what your pitch will look like very much depends on what you would like to achieve or what your ‘ask’ is, so next are some examples that have been put into context.

Context: Adding a contact

Job title: Business analyst

Hello! My name is Anwar, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I have a background in Business Analytics with just over 10 years’ experience creating data-driven solutions for various business problems. Specifically, I love and have had great success in the strategic evaluation of data analysis with our executive staff. It sounds like you do similar work—I would love to keep in touch to learn more about what you and your company do.”

Context: Seeking a job opportunity

Job title: Media Planner

Hi, I’m Tom. I’ve spent the last eight years learning and growing in my role as Media Planner, where I’ve developed and optimized strategic media plans for our top client and managed a subset of planners as a Team Lead. One of my proudest achievements was a pro-bono project that was recognized as a top non-profit campaign last year. I’ve been interested in moving to non-profit for quite a while, and love what your company does in education. Would you mind telling me about any media planning needs you may have on the team?

Elevator pitch tips

Of course, your elevator has no value on paper; it needs to be presented orally, so you can make an impression. In order to prepare your pitch, there are a number of things that you can do. First, it helps to read the pitch out loud to yourself to detect any mistakes and opportunities to say things more concisely. Also, you may want to ask a friend to help you practice out loud so you can receive some feedback. This will give you an opportunity to polish and finetune your pitch. Finally, keep in mind that most people, when they get nervous, tend to speed up and start rushing through their speech. Just remember, to keep your pitch short and concise and then take your time and speak at a normal pace.

Presentation Skills: Talking about Visuals

A tutorial on how to present graphs, tables, and charts in an effective and engaging way

Many formal presentations include having to talk about numbers. These numbers could be research data, sales figures, or many other types of statistics. Numbers in a presentation, however, are not very memorable, especially not if you also need to talk about how different numbers relate to each other. Because data, exact sales figures, etc. are so difficult to remember, it often makes sense to present them in some kind of visual, like a graph, a chart, or a table. However, talking about these types of visuals is difficult to do, and not doing it well will often cause your audience to lose interest in what you have to say. Presenting graphs, charts and tables only works if it is done in an effective, engaging, and well-structured way. To achieve this, attention needs to be paid to:

  • Introducing the visual
  • Commenting on, and introducing the visual
  • Talking about change and development

Good visuals need to be highly memorable and,generally speaking, when presenting numbers and statistics, the simpler your visual is, the more people are likely to remember it. It also means that anything you don’t talk about should not be in the visual.

Good visuals should also reduce the amount of talking for the speaker. If the graph represents something that could be explained in an effective way using only a few words, you should not use a visual because then that would only be a distraction.

Finally, a good visual should help the speaker. This means that graphs, charts and tables should only be used for details that are difficult to explain. The visual should speak for the presenter and make his job easier, so you should always ask yourself whether the visual is necessary and whether it actually makes your presentation better.

Another important question you should ask yourself is which type of visual is most effective for what you want to achieve. Graphs, tables, and charts all do different things well, and it is therefore important to select the right type of visual.

A line graph, for example, works well if you want to show how a quantity of something develops over time. For example, this could be how many muffins were sold per day during a given week.

A bar graph, on the other hand, works well for comparisons. When you want to visualize in which month to most ice cream was sold, for instance.

Pie charts are often used when showing percentages, or quantities as part of a larger total.

Tables are of the most difficult to talk about because they often show many individual numbers on the screen at once without showing a connection between them, or a clear development. For this reason, when using a table, it may be a good idea to focus the audience’s attention on specific details by highlighting the ones you are talking about while talking about them.

Finally, flow charts are good at showing processes, or other things that can be divided into steps with a certain order.

As mentioned before, it is very important that you choose the correct type of visual for the right job, because failing to do so will most likely cause your audience to lose interest in your message.

Introducing the Visual

After you have put your visual on the screen, the next step is shifting the focus of the audience to the screen. You need to tell them to stop looking at you, and start looking at the screen. You can do this simply by pointing at the screen and saying something like:

Let’s have a look at this.

or

As you can see here, …

After you have told the people you are addressing to focus their attention on the screen, you need to tell them what they are looking at, because you don’t want them to spend their time studying the visual while they ought to be listening to you. You should explain the visual by saying something like:

This graph shows the amount of traffic to our website throughout the year.

 or

This bar graph compares the number of people who commuted by car to those who commuted by bicycle between 2015 and 2020.

The next step is to make a general comment about the graph as a whole, or about a general pattern or trend, like in these examples:

As you can see, the average turnover shows a steady upward trend.

or

What is clear is that the number of visitors to the Netherlands fluctuates throughout the year.

The final step in introducing your visual is to highlight the part of the visual you want to talk about in more detail. You could say something like:

If we look at 2018, …

Or

The period between March and September shows …

Commenting on the Visual

After you have highlighted a specific area in the visual, you need to make a comment about it. This means telling your audience what a specific number or data point in the visual represents. You give meaning to the numbers. For example, you could say:

2017 shows a significant spike in the number of online sales.

or

Here the table shows an anomaly in the results.

Then, after commenting on a specific section of the visual, you need to interpret it. You tell the audience what the underlying causes were that explain the detail you chose to discuss, or which conclusion can be drawn from it. To illustrate, you could say something like:

This number can be explained by the abnormally hot summer we had.

or

What we can learn from this is that we need to increase production.

It is important to repeat the cycle HighlightComment Interpret for each detail you choose to discuss. In this way the structure of your talk becomes clear.

Change and Development

A mentioned, after you have selected the best type of visual for presenting you data on the screen, you need to talk about it. Generally speaking, this is difficult to do in an engaging way, so it is easy to lose your audience’s interest while doing it, but in order to make sure that they won’t lose interest, you need to use effective language that can capture your points in a concise way. When talking about a line graph, for instance, it is important to use a range of different vocabulary that doesn’t only comment on how the data develops – so, whether the line goes up or down – it is also, helpful to comment on the speed at which it happens or how significant the changes that you choose to discuss are. The verbs in the table can help you do this:

increase/decreasedeclinehit a lowplummet
rise/fallremainstabilizedrop
fluctuategrowshrinkplunge
recoverpeakslumpShoot up
bottom outexpandnarrowTake off

Here are some example sentences:

The table illustrates that profits have stabilized during this quarter.

or

Last year, stock prices plummeted due to the trade dispute.

If you want to comment on the speed and the importance of the developments in the graph you can add effective adjective or adverbs to your comments, like in the table.

substantialnotabledisastrous
rapidspectacularsteady
moderatedisappointingslight
enormousencouragingsignificant

So, you could say something like:

The graph suggests an encouraging trend.

or

In 2018, overhead costs were cut significantly.

Conclusion

The example below shows a basic example of talking about a graph in an effective way, using a clear and concise structure.

So, I’d like to draw your attention to this graph.(Drawing attention to the screen) What it illustrates is the number of people killed in car accidents between 2000 and 2010 (Explaining the visual).  As you can see, the number fluctuated significantly during that time (General comment), but I’d like to focus on the year 2014 (Highlighting), when the number of casualties increased dramatically (Commenting). The explanation for this sudden rise in deaths can be found in the extreme weather during that period (Interpreting).

Presentation skills: Beginning the presentation

How to start off well during a formal presentation or speech

At the beginning of your presentation there are usually four things that you need to do, and the first of those is greet your audience. Also, when you are not presenting within your own organization – so when you are presenting to people that may not know you – you need to introduce yourself and say which company you represent. It is also helpful to say something about yourself and to welcome your audience.

Greeting your audience is usually what you start with. Apart from it being the polite thing to do, it is also important to make your audience feel welcome. Doing this helps to build, what is called, rapport between you and your audience.  You want to build a good relationship with the people you are presenting to and greeting them before your get to the actual presentation is an important part of that.

If you are presenting to a group of people that you don’t know, or to people who don’t know you, it is also important to introduce yourself by mentioning your name and, for example, the organization you are working for.  Just like when greeting your audience, it helps to build rapport. Also, it helps the audience to put you into a certain context as a speaker, like in this this example:

Hello. I’d like to welcome you all here this morning. I am Jill Anderson of Anderson and Brand International.

In this example it is likely that the audience will link the name Jill Anderson to the company’s name, Anderson & Brand International. This information may give the audience an idea of Jill’s position in the company, adding to her credibility as a speaker.

This is not always necessary, of course. Sometimes saying your name and mentioning how the opportunity to speak makes you feel is enough to build rapport. Like in this example:

Good afternoon. I’m delighted to be here today. My name is Peter Jones.

Sometimes it may be helpful to mention your name together with the name of your company if your company has a good reputation in your field, or if it is particularly well-known. Like here:

Good morning everyone. Thank you all for coming. I am Rebecca Ferris from KPMG.

Similar to the first example, mentioning your name together with the name of a respected company could positively affect the impact your presentation has on the people that are going to listen to you.

After you’ve greeted your audience and have introduced yourself, it is often a helpful to say something about yourself. Not only does this help your audience to relate to you on a more personal level, it is also an opportunity for you as a speaker to showcase your expertise. Here is an example:

Before I continue, let me tell you something about myself. I’ve been working for Anderson and Brand for seven years.

Letting the audience know that you have been working for the company that you are representing for seven years tells the audience how much experience you have and how dedicated you are to that company. This could make what you are going to say more credible because your audience is more likely to assume that you know what you are talking about because of your experience.

If you have a lot of experience in a certain field, but have worked for a number of companies during your career instead of just one, you could use a sentence like this:

My career in finance began in the late 1990s when I joined …

… and then you add the name of your company. It tells the audience how experienced you are, and if you add the companies you worked for in the past, along with the job titles you’ve held, it could tell your audience something about your skillset.

The following sentence works in a similar way:

My experience in the field of environmental preservation started when …

… and then you can mention an experience that had an impact on your career. You may want to use a sentence like this when you are a freelancer, for example, or when you are not representing an organization.

Welcoming your audience is also important when you begin your presentation and it is often combined with thanking the audience for the opportunity to speak. Like here:

Welcome to Google. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk to you today.

This sentence not only expresses that you are glad that your audience showed up, but by expressing that you are grateful for the opportunity to speak, you are also expressing a level of humility. You are putting yourself on the same level as your audience and when your audience feels they are more or less the same as you, they are more likely to be interested in what you have to say. In other words, this way of welcoming your audience also builds rapport, just like the following sentence.

Thank you for inviting me to talk to you today.

By using this sentence, you are positioning yourself as a guest of the audience, which suggests that you aren’t there to tell them what to do or to believe, but that you are there with them to discuss the topic of your talk together. You are putting yourself on the same level.

Now, let’s look at this sentence:

Welcome everybody. I appreciate the chance to speak to you this afternoon.

This sentence works in the same way as the previous one. It builds rapport between you and the audience by pointing out that you are there because of them.

So, to conclude. A successful presentation starts with an effective opening during which you greet your audience and introduce yourself, you provide some background information about yourself, and you welcome your audience by expressing your gratitude for the opportunity to speak. If you do this well, you will set yourself up for a successful presentation.

Video: Beginning the Presentation

Advanced Presentation Techniques

Advanced presentation techniques to make your presentation more effective and more memorable.

When doing a presentation, what you are going to say (the content) is most important. Of course, as a presenter, you want your audience to focus on the important part of your message. It needs to stick in their memories so they can act on it if they want. Because presentations as a tool to get information across in a memorable way are not particularly effective (the retention rate is quite low), how you say things becomes just as important as the content of the presentation.  To increase this retention rate, there are a number of presentation techniques that you could apply. They are:

  • rhetorical questions
  • dramatic contrast,
  • tripling
  • machine gunning
  • build-ups
  • knock-downs
  • simplification.

 Also, there are a number of ways to create rapport with your audience.

Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions, when used well, do three things. First of all, they make your audience feel involved. Even though you are the one doing most of the talking, rhetorical questions invite your audience to think along with you while you are presenting. In this way your presentation comes across as a two-way conversation rather than a one-way monologue in which you tell your listeners what to think and to believe. Putting rhetorical questions into your presentation also creates anticipation. What you are really doing by asking the question is telling the audience what you are going to talk about next. You are giving them a glimpse into the future, so to speak, by asking a question and then answering it yourself. Because of that, you are allowing the audience to anticipate what’s coming. In this way, the structure of your presentation becomes more apparent to them.

So, let’s look at some examples:

As you know, many of our competitors have shown disappointing results last year. So, why haven’t we been able to capitalise on this?

Let’s say you are talking to a group of business executives. By asking the question of why they ‘haven’t been able to capitalize on this’, they will feel more involved because you are asking them to think along with you. Your talk will feel more conversational to them because they will be answering a question you asked them, even though it will only be in their heads instead of out loud. The rhetorical question will also allow the audience to anticipate what’s coming because they can assume that the question will be followed by an answer. So, so it will act as a structuring device.

The next example works in the same way:

Obviously, we won’t see the results of these lay-offs in the near future. So, how do we know they’ve been effective?

The question allows the listeners to think along. It creates the feeling of having a two-way conversation with the presenter, and it tells them what you are going to talk about next. 

Emphasizing the connection between the rhetorical question and its answer is also a good way to add more structure to your talk. Like in this example:

So, how big ARE the consequences of this economic downturn going to be?

They are likely to be giGANtic.

Here, stress is put on the verb ARE in a question with an adjective in it. In this case the adjective is big. In the answer, a stronger, stressed adjective is then used to emphasize the connection between the question and the answer. This makes the structure of your talk better.

Rhetorical questions can also be made more powerful by repeating the important words from the question in the answer. Again, this shows the connection between the two. To do this effectively, you can first introduce the question with a statement in which you describe the situation. Then you ask the rhetorical question, and you follow up with the answer. This pattern makes the connections between what you have to say more powerful. As an illustration, let’s look at this example:

The fact is that our competitors made a take-over bid last week.

So, what can be done about this?

What can be done is keeping the share price high.

As you can see, the important words from the question are repeated in the answer. This creates a strong connection between the question and the answer and makes the structure of your talk clearer.

Dramatic Contrast

Dramatic contrast can be used to reinforce a point that is being made, like in these examples.

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

or

A year ago,we were market leader. Today we are on the verge of going under.

Making a point using two strongly opposing ideas is a good way of attracting the attention of your audience.

Tripling

To make what you say more memorable, your points can be divided up in threes. When it comes to providing your audience with arguments or reasons for believing something, number 3 is the ‘magic number’. This is because you can convince your listener in two ways: either you can give them a small number of arguments that they will be able to remember, or you can choose to give them a larger number of reasons for whatever it is you want to convince people of, and impress them with the quantity of reasons. However, this second option has the disadvantage that your audience will not be able to remember what all the reasons were. If you mention three, your audience will be able to do both; they will be impressed by the number of arguments you came up with, and they will be able to remember what these arguments were. This is why tripling is so effective. So, let’s look at some examples:

Our service is swift, efficient, and professional.

or

What’s needed now is time, effort, and money.

Machine Gunning

Machine gunning is similar to tripling in that you mention a number of points that should support the claim you are trying to make. However, contrary to tripling (for which it is important that the audience can remember the arguments you make), machine gunning aims just to impress people with the number of arguments you have, regardless of whether your audience is able to remember them, like in this example:

It is cheaper, newer, faster, bigger, clearer, safer AND better designed.

The effectiveness of this technique is in the delivery. The adjectives (in this case) should be delivered quickly, monotonously, and one after the other, so it sounds a bit like a machine gun being fired. If it is not delivered like that, the effect of the technique is lost.

After you’ve delivered your list of arguments, it is also a good idea to build in a short pause, and finish with a concluding remark. It could be something like this:

What more can I say!

The effect of this remark is that you are suggesting that there is nothing more to add, and that what you just said is the only logical conclusion.

Build-ups

A build-up is a technique in which you support your point by feeding your audience one argument at the time, like in this example:

As far as this contract in the Netherlands is concerned, we are pretty tied up with a lot of other projects at the moment.

So, there is no way we could meet their deadlines.

We have very little experience in this kind of work, anyway.

And, to be honest, they are not prepared to pay us what we want.

The idea behind this is that the people in the audience will put these arguments together and come to the logical conclusion that (in this case) the contract in the Netherlands is a bad idea. For extra effect, you then build in a short pause to let their conclusion sink in, add a summarizing filler, and then add a concluding remark that reinforces the conclusion the audience members have already reached on their own.  You could say something like:

BASICALLY, it is out of the question.

Knock-Downs

The knock-down technique is very similar to the build-up in that it feeds the audience small bits of information one at a time to allow them to piece these bits together themselves to reach their own conclusion. However, what a knock-down does differently is that, instead of reinforce the conclusion, it contradicts it. You could say that a knock-down is a combination of a build-up and the dramatic contrast technique. Here’s an example:

Of course, the experts said that the tablet computer would never succeed.

They did market research that said people would just see it as a gimmick.

They said its memory capacity would be too limited for serious business users.

and they did a feasibility study that showed its touchpad would be too small for the fingers of a five-year-old.

Then, after your listeners have reached the conclusion that introducing a tablet computer was a terrible idea, you should counter that conclusion with a contrasting idea. It could be something like:

So, how come, it sold more than a million units in the first quarter?

Simplification

Simplification is about the fact that, in most cases, the simpler what you say is, the more impact it will have. Normally, you would say something like this:

Should we be thinking of expansion?  No, that would not be a good idea.  Why wouldn’t it be? Well, that should be obvious.  It’s much too risky.

However, if you want to leave your audience with a memorable conclusion of your talk, or you want to give them a quick and easy-to-digest summary of your main points, you could also say something like:

Expansion? Not a good idea. Why? Obvious. Too risky.

Please note, that the effectiveness of this technique lies in the contrast between how you normally speak and your simplified version. If you overuse simplification, your style of speaking will become awkward and choppy.

Creating Rapport

Creating rapport is not one technique, but a number of ways in which you can improve or maintain a good relationship with your audience. If you are able to this you will:

  • Make your audience feel involved
  • Make your talk more conversational
  • Make your audience feel like individuals

The first way in which you can make your audience feel more involved is by talking from thewe’ perspective, and use ‘us’ and ‘our’. Like here:

Basically, we all share the same goal. And our goal is to create profit.

This gives the audience the impression that, instead of you telling them what to think, you want to solve the issue that you are presenting on together. You are suggesting to tackle a problem together with the people in the audience by putting yourself on the same level as them.

You can also use question tags to push for agreement, like in this example:

And we all know what that means, don’t we?

If you are a member of the audience, it takes less effort to think ‘Yes, we do’, than to think ‘No, you are wrong. We don’t’. In this way can maintain the relationship with the people that you are talking to while encouraging them to agree with you.

Using negative question forms in your talk works in a similar way. It helps to put the audience in the same mindset as you, like in this example:

Haven’t we all had similar experiences at one time or another?

Here also, it takes more effort for the audience to answer this with ‘yes, we have’ than with ‘No, we haven’t.’

Making your talk more conversational by using ‘fillers’, like you know, actually, etc., is also an effective way to build rapport between you and your audience. For example, you could these phrases:

You know, there are different ways to address this issue.

or

Actually, the third strategy turned out to be the most effective one.

or

As a matter of fact, we have come up with a number of innovative ideas.

You need to keep in mind that overuse of fillers tends to make your style less formal, and could affect your fluency negatively.

Finally, making your audience feel like individuals is also a good way to create rapport. You can do this by putting yourself on the same level as the people you are speaking to by implying that you and your audience are the same or share similar interests, like in the following examples:

If you were anything like me, you would take this opportunity.

or

And if I were to ask you to come up with some advice, what would it be?

or

Now, I know what you are thinking. Why didn’t we react to this sooner?

To conclude, the presentation techniques that were discussed will really help you to make your presentation more effective and memorable, so it will leave a lasting impression on your audience.