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5 Misconceptions of an Elevator Pitch

Do you hate writing as much as my hair hates growing? Did you know that lousy writing on your website makes people head for the hills? Our writing will turn those runaways into paying customers. I’m David Telisman, founder of David Telisman Communications. Let Our Writing Do Your Selling! 

I’ve delivered over a thousand elevator pitches, and this one got the best response.

The feedback I received was that it was funny, described succinctly the need for my services, and created a sense of urgency.

Go me. Curtsy.

Elevator pitch is a popular term, especially in the small business world. It’s a short, persuasive speech that you can use to sell your product, business, or yourself. It should give the listener just enough information to want to learn more.

That last part is the goal. A memorable pitch makes you interesting, and we gravitate toward interesting people. The listener who wants to learn more sets up a meeting with you with the potential for positive outcomes: they become a prospect and possibly a client; they refer you; they connect you with those who have influence; and they keep you in their networking bullpen.

But this blog post is about what an elevator pitch isn’t. Today, I present five misconceptions of an elevator pitch.

1. It Has to Happen in an Elevator 

🚨Smart Ass Alert🚨

Don’t practice your elevator pitch in an elevator.

For one, networking events aren’t held in elevators (Where would the bar go?)

For another, people are generally uncomfortable with close-talking, the spread of germs, and being cornered.

It’s ironic that the last place to give an elevator pitch is in one.

2. The Average Elevator Pitch is Between 30 Seconds and Two Minutes

This is what the so-called experts say.

According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), an elevator pitch should be 118 seconds or the average length of an elevator ride in New York City.

Unless you’ve achieved loquacious wizardry, you’re not going to sustain someone’s attention for this long.

But go ahead and put it to the test. Get up in a big room and talk about you and your business for 30 seconds to two minutes. That is a long time in that setting.  
In my experience—and I’ve learned from the wizards—12-15 seconds is the sweet spot.

Furthermore, there are many small to medium size buildings in New York, and the elevators in skyscrapers are supercharged for speed, so I call shenanigans on the HBR.

3. Leading With Your Name Grabs Their Attention

Sounds counterintuitive, right?

We introduce ourselves with our names when we meet people. However, when you’re in a larger setting among fellow small business owners, leading with your name dilutes your pitch.

In Super Bowl commercials, there’s intrigue and suspense before the reveal of the company. If a commercial started with, “Hi, we are Doritos and…”, the viewers have already drawn conclusions with preconceived brand notions.

When you stand up and state your name first, the attention is on your name (David Telisman? Isn’t that like a charm that you wear around your neck? Stephen King wrote a book called The Talisman, right? Geez, that was awful when Stephen King was walking in Maine and got hit by a car. Maine lobster, oh, how I love drawn butter). 

Then the rest of your pitch doesn’t matter. Hook them with how you can solve their problems, and then conclude with your name and the name of your business.

4. You Have to Be Animated 

No need to be theatrical.

Just be yourself, dude. If you have a big personality, sure, leverage that. But if you’re dry and more subdued, lean into it.

One of the most memorable elevator pitches I heard came from a monotone credit card processing vendor, who said, “I may have the personality of a roof shingle, but when you work with me, you never have to chase down your customers for payment.”

That got a standing O.

What’s key is whether you’re introverted or extroverted, project so everyone can hear you.

5. A Bad Elevator Pitch Means Death

If your elevator pitch bombs, the Grim Reaper won’t come for your business.

It can take a long time to develop a solid one, which is equal parts, choice of words, presence, and comfort. And that requires a lot of writing, practicing in the mirror, and timing yourself.

The other piece is that it’s possible to be very successful in business without an elevator pitch. They’re important but certainly not essential.

Finally, save your pitches somewhere. I keep mine in a Google Doc, noting the ones that fell flat, killed, and landed somewhere in the middle. You can always repurpose the gems and develop the others.

Give it a ride.

About the Author, David Telisman

I am a Writer and Content Creator, and I work with businesses to inspire their customers to buy from them. I believe that my clients deserve to feel proud of how their content marketing looks and what it says, and I deliver by providing expert copywriting and marketing solutions.

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