How To Write An Elevator Pitch: Cracking The Binary Codes

How to Write a Elevator Pitch

Someone once jokingly told me, there are two types of people in this world – those who are Katy Perry fans and those who are liars.

I immediately thought this completely binary statement, while said in an unserious manner, was something I would actually remember and would one day repeat – I just did not expect to do so in the context of … elevator pitches.

When writing this guide, I had a good friend read over an early draft and his immediate reaction was verbatim:

I think of someone like Robert who could benefit from this. He often talks to everyone like they are the investor and people lose interest and don’t want to hear from him about it—ever. The other thing he does is talk about it every time we get together and really wear people down from wanting to hear about it or hang out with him.

INSANE wake-up call, isn’t it? Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

 

The 2 Realities You Need To Be Aware Of

So there are two realities to elevator pitches, and the purpose of this simple guide is to explore both and allow each reality to enable (not disable) you, the superstar-in-the-making, to develop your own pitch and develop it in a way that allows you to easily tweak it as you see fit during your journey through entrepreneurship.

Every encounter differs from the last, and therefore requires a tweak or two in your pitch to maximize your value proposition success.

Reality 1)

The first reality is that the more people you pitch your business idea to, the more feedback you will get, and the more likely you’ll be able to use that feedback to refine your concept and preparation. (It’s always better to validate your business idea BEFORE you start, right?)

The goal is to give elevator pitches in a manner that is concise, clear, and abbreviated. The more simple the better.

As current and aspiring entrepreneurs, we love our ideas and could talk about it for days, right? However, if you end up talking for an hour about your idea, and getting one person’s feedback (and perhaps that individual ends up providing no valuable feedback at all), your opportunity cost could be significant.

You could’ve given a succinct yet detailed-oriented elevator pitch to multiple folks within that one-hour span; and could’ve garnered more feedback/reactions that either confirm or challenge your idea – nonetheless enabling you to adjust and perfect your business plan (this can be done with an online template or tool business plan software like LivePlan).

Reality 2)

The second reality is that having a stock elevator pitch in your back pocket is not enough – it needs to be adaptable to two audiences: potential investors and everyone else (yes, it really is completely binary!).

The investors or lenders (i.e. venture capitalists, potential teaming partners, suppliers) care more about your plan (e.g. how will you make money, etc.), while everyone else (i.e. friends, family, future potential customers) care more about your story (e.g. what’s got you so passionate about the business, etc.), one could argue.

In both cases, there is great value to be received by simply telling your plan and/ or story; but to mix the two audiences – or worse – use the same elevator pitch for both could be a grave mistake.

Not only will you waste your time, but you will waste your intended audience’ time and lose creditability along the way despite your hard work and due diligence behind the scenes. As mentioned, the more effective your pitch is, the more you will get to tell it, the more feedback you will get; and in a shorter period of time, the more you’ll be able to quickly refine it.

 

How To Build An Elevator Pitch (Your Template)

So how do you develop an elevator pitch that is tweak-able to the audiences and opportunities that you will encounter on this journey, say you? Start with an outline:

Fill out the below templates – one for potential investors, one for everyone else.

1) Read over the one you completed for potential investors.

2) Read over it again.

3) Step away and see if you are able to have a visual of it in your head – e.g., the structure of the table outline, the buzz words, etc.

4) Repeat steps 1-3 a couple of times.

If you’re getting the hang of it, you’re on your way to giving an effective elevator pitch to potential investors/lenders.

Now repeat steps 1-4 for the other ‘Everyone Else’ outline table. Boom! (you get the point)

Note that the ‘Themes’ can be modified to fit your audience. I would recommend the below themes for your stock pitch but tailor the number of buzz words per the themes, based on your audience.

For the elevator pitch reserved for potential investors/lenders, I would go heaviest with bullets in the ‘Your Plan’ row (thus a reminder to really highlight the plan during the pitch, as this interests investors/lenders the most).

I would go heaviest with bullets in the ‘Your Story’ row for the pitch meant for your “everyone else” category (again, keep this visual in mind when gauging your audience type).

Themes of Elevator Pitch

Buzz Words to Highlight during Pitch

Potential

Investors

Your Story
  • Enter buzz words, things to highlight, etc.
Your Plan
  • Enter buzz words, things to highlight, etc.
  • Enter buzz words, things to highlight, etc.
  • Enter buzz words, things to highlight, etc.
The Benefits
  • Enter buzz words, things to highlight, etc.
  • Enter buzz words, things to highlight, etc.

Themes of Elevator Pitch

Buzz Words to Highlight during Pitch

Everyone

Else

Your Story
  • Enter buzz words, things to highlight, etc.
  • Enter buzz words, things to highlight, etc.
  • Enter buzz words, things to highlight, etc.
Your Plan
  • Enter buzz words, things to highlight, etc.
  • Enter buzz words, things to highlight, etc.
The Benefits
  • Enter buzz words, things to highlight, etc.

Outlines are easy for the human brain to remember and in the process of recollecting the image you will be reminded of the sections and buzz words necessary to express the key points in your pitch in a way that is succinct, structured, and effective.

This is an example of an outline that was probably in Liesha and Ryan’s head when they first pitched the idea of Startup Savant to a friend (i.e. to a non-investor) – note the heavier bullet count for their ‘Your Story’ row:

Themes of Elevator Pitch

Buzz Words to Highlight during Pitch

Everyone

Else

Your Story
  • Read ‘Start Something That Matters’ – Changed life
  • Die-hard entrepreneurs; Desire to empower others
  • Heavy heart for children’s education – must incorporate!
Your Plan
  • Startup Savant – online magazine for entrepreneurship tied to giving back
The Benefits
  • Step by step interviews and guides that show students how to think, not what to think

 

2 Elevator Pitch Examples

In the spirit of this example here are two elevator pitch examples. For Liesha and Ryan this was probably the result of having the outline rehearsed in their head:

Hey guys!

Have you heard of a book called, “Start Something That Matters” by the founder of TOMS Shoes? We just got done with it, and it definitely changed our complete perspective. You all know our story – entrepreneurship and empowering others is near and dear to our hearts, but this book really added a new perspective…ready?

Incorporating giving back to children’s education as the primary mission while empowering aspiring future business owners with the tools and resources they need to succeed.

We want to build Startup Savant, an online magazine that helps you bring your business idea to life – without the unnecessary steps or confusion. We show our readers how to think, not what to think; and in the process, promote the practice of giving back.

We’re so excited to do this!

Notice the composition of this script – more than half of it relates to Liesha and Ryan’s story, whereas their plan and benefits make up only the last sentence. Their “everyone else” audience would appreciate the origins of business idea (i.e., their story) and the sincerity of their plan.

They also don’t mention how the venture will make money (but of course, they’ll have it tee up if asked); and is less formal (use of terms such as “guys” and exclamations). In other words, their elevator pitch is less “business-like” when it is meant for his peers/friends or family audience (i.e. the non-investors, “everyone else” group).

On the flip side, pretend Liesha and Ryan encountered an investor or lender. This is an example of an outline that was probably in their heads – note the heavier bullet count for their ‘Your Plan’ row:

Themes of Elevator Pitch

Buzz Words to Highlight during Pitch

Potential Investors/Lenders

Your Story
  • 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs fail – Startup Savant can help
Your Plan
  • It will be an online magazine – readers learn at their own pace
  • Thorough interviews and guides from successful entrepreneurs
  • Provide tools and resources to empower entrepreneurship
The Benefits
  • Mission is unique in that we will donate through DonorsChoose to support children’s education
  • Inspire entrepreneurs to reach their startup dreams, while giving back to an important cause

Now notice the composition of this script compared to the previous – there is greater emphasis on their plan and the benefits of their venture in comparison to their story (which was essentially non-existent). Their lender/investor audience would appreciate the fact that in the elevator pitch they got to the point with a plan of action and the benefits of them (shortly after his “8 out of 10” hook).

They also do touch upon about how the venture will make money but, unique to Startup Savant, the charitable component was highlighted more (this may or may not be the case for you – use your judgment!)

 

Elevator Pitch Examples

You know your business idea and passion better than anyone else. That, in conjunction with outlines in your head that is intended for the two general elevator pitch audiences, should greatly reduce potential time spent dragging out the unnecessary details.

And let’s be honest – we’ve all been on the recipient end of a pitch where the key message was delayed for too long, unclear, or even inadvertently omitted altogether. You don’t want to be that friend who talks about your idea for an hour or so each time you get together, with a pitch that is not engaging and/or too bottom-line (earnings) focused.

Likewise, you do not want to engage a potential lender/investor in an hour long pitch about your story when they just want to know their potential outlay and ROI. You’ll alienate your friends and potential lenders, and that’s regardless of whether or not you all share a mutual love or hatred of Katy Perry.

 

About the author

John ChiuJohn Chiu is a consultant to government clients in Washington, D.C.  However, he has always had a small business on the side to treat his entrepreneurial habit.

He is about to launch a stand-up paddle board guided tours operation, called UpStanding Tours; in which proceeds will go toward his team’s Charity: Water campaign pledge.

Check back soon for when his website and campaign goes live!  Connect with him on Twitter.