The Elevator Pitch
How to communicate your BIG ideas
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One of the most valuable professional skills is communicating big ideas effectively.
To do this well, you need to:
Distilling a big idea down into something anyone can quickly understand — and get excited about! — isn’t easy.
Enter the Elevator Pitch.
What’s an Elevator Pitch?
An Elevator Pitch is a brief and persuasive explanation of your idea.
It’s named after the concept that you should be able to pitch your idea in the time it takes to ride an elevator (generally 30-60 seconds).
Your goal is to quickly communicate the most compelling aspects of the idea.
This usually happens verbally, but an elevator pitch can also be used in:
social media posts
And elsewhere. Strong writing is the foundation.
Here’s a simple framework to help you build an effective elevator pitch:
1. Identify your audience
Before jumping into your pitch, consider who you’re talking to.
A few helpful questions to ask:
What’s this person’s role (at work or elsewhere)?
Why would this person care about my idea?
What benefit is in it for them?
If you’re talking to a potential investor, you should probably highlight the opportunity and the traction your idea has already received.
If you’re talking to a potential customer, you should probably highlight how your idea will solve a problem or improve their business.
If you’re speaking at an industry event, you should probably tell a story to make your pitch intriguing and memorable.
2. Start with a problem
A good place to start any elevator pitch is with a problem.
Preferably, a painful problem for your audience.
This will focus your pitch and explain why you have this idea.
Let’s say your team at work has an idea for a personal finance product.
You could begin by outlining a problem like this:
“The average American has over $7,000 in credit card debt. This creates financial stress that negatively impacts their lives.”
In two sentences, we’ve introduced a problem (credit card debt) and why it’s painful (stress that impacts peoples’ lives.)
In ~10 seconds, we have our audience’s attention.
Now, let’s build intrigue.
3. Introduce your idea
We now want to introduce our idea and position it as a solution to the problem.
This should be as clear and concise as possible.
Let’s continue with the personal finance product example:
“We’re building an app that helps people make personal finance easy. No more debt, no more stress.”
We have not yet gotten into details.
All we’ve done so far is:
Got our audience’s attention
Built intrigue around our solution
All in about 15 seconds.
Now, let’s provide a little more detail.
4. Explain the “how”
We’ve introduced our idea as a solution to the problem.
Now, let’s briefly explain how our idea will solve the problem as you say.
Continuing with our personal finance product example:
The app does 3 core things for people:
It builds a personalized budget
It tracks spending in real time
It uses AI to automate future spending to stay within budget
All you need to do is follow the plan.
There’s plenty of more detail we could offer here, but remember:
This is a 30-60 second elevator pitch.
We don’t want to go into every detail.
Now, let’s wrap it up in a compelling way.
5. Paint a brighter future
End your elevator pitch with a brighter future.
This is the place to:
Mention any traction
Articulate your vision
Get your audience to dream
With our personal finance example, that could sound something like this:
“We have 500 people already using the app, and it’s saving them an average of $1,000 per month. Imagine the impact of 5 million people — or 50 million.”
Boom, that’s it.
One thing you could add to this framework is a call-to-action to drive the next step (eg. booking a follow-up discussion).
Learning how to communicate your big ideas clearly and effectively is an invaluable skill.
The Elevator Pitch is a great technique.
Here’s a recap of the framework we covered:
Identify your audience
Start with a problem
Introduce your idea
Explain the “how”
Paint a brighter future
This framework is a starting point — make it your own.
Just remember to keep it clear, simple and concise.
P.S. This 3-slide pdf from Princeton has some helpful tips on elevator pitches and is a good resource for reference.
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