The Perfect Elevator Pitch

Why an Elevator Pitch Matters and Tips to Elevate Yours

by Jolie Spiers

We’ve all seen Shark Tank or similar scenario where hopeful business owners stand before a panel of investors with five minutes or less to make their entrepreneurial dreams come true. The tension might be a bit manufactured for TV, but the reality is that the stakes are high for all business owners and having a well-prepared pitch can do more for your business than simply impressing Mark Cuban.

Speaking of Mark Cuban, pretend that you walked into an elevator together and he mentioned he was looking around for new investments. You have until the 10th floor to tell him why he should pick your business; that’s 15, maybe 30 seconds to catch his attention, which is why it’s called an “elevator pitch”. It’s the most basic version of a business pitch designed to bait a new client, customer, champion or possibly even an investor.

Good elevator pitches, like all pitches, have three basic elements:
1) Establishing credibility. State who are you and your product or service. Use this sentence to establish credibility and clearly state what it is that you are offering to the world.

2) Stating your value proposition. What is your unique value proposition? This is often referred to as a UVP or even USP (unique selling point) or ESP (emotional selling proposition). All of those acronyms are just fancy ways of asking you to convey what’s so special about your idea. What makes your business different and unique or emotionally compelling? This is often the hardest thing for business owners to quantify but it’s critical. If you can’t explain what makes your business special and interesting why will a customer or investor be interested?

3) Sparking engagement. What would make someone want to learn more or stay engaged? In a sales environment, this would be the ask or call to action. Not every conversation needs a hard sale, but you do want your elevator pitch to spark interest and give you the opportunity to leave a positive impression—or at least a business card.

It can be hard to winnow down your ideas, passion and unique value proposition (please have a UVP!) into 30 seconds or three talking points. Which is why it’s important to spend some time refining, tightening and practicing your elevator pitch. Do it in front of the mirror until it feels natural. Record it into your phone both as a voice memo to focus on the actual words, your tone and speed, and then create a video so that you can watch your facial expressions and body language. You want to look and sound clear, confident and at ease.

Try your elevator pitch out on family and friends for some soft feedback and then try it in the wild. Chat up the grocery clerk, serve it up a cocktail party, tell it to the guy standing next to you at your kid’s soccer game. Not only will the repetition help refine and relax your delivery, but you never know when a casual conversation can convert to a business opportunity so have a few business cards available when someone asks for more information.

Elevator pitches are just one component of a comprehensive marketing and capital plan to support small business success. To learn more about resources available for entrepreneurs, reach out to the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center at

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