woman giving presentation to coworkers
From customizing your pitch to keeping it brief and easy to understand, there are several ways to ensure that your elevator pitch piques your audience's interest. — Getty Images/PeopleImages

An elevator pitch is a tricky thing to perfect. It must tell a compelling story, and hit all the main points about what makes your idea unique, and stay short and to the point. Here are a few tips for crafting your elevator pitch and opening the door to new contacts, opportunities and investments.

Customize the pitch for the occasion

Many entrepreneurs and business owners make the mistake of thinking they can write one elevator pitch and be done. In reality, there’s a time and a place for different versions of your pitch.

[Read: 10 Elevator Pitches Examples to Help Launch Your Business]

The core concepts may remain the same, but how you frame your idea, ask or introduction should change depending on the audience and occasion. For instance, if you’re job searching, you can have separate versions of your elevator pitch for job fairs, networking events and in-person or virtual meetups. A written version of that same pitch may vary slightly for an audience reading your LinkedIn or Twitter bio. And there should be a completely new take on that same pitch for a job interview scenario.

The key thing to consider as you make your pitch is to address the audience directly. Some audiences, like networking contacts, may be less formal than, say, a job interview. Your social media pitch may need to include certain keywords to help recruiters find your profile. Take all of these elements into consideration as you go.

Make it about the audience

As Neil Gordon, a communications expert and speaking coach, wrote for CO—, a common mistake of most elevator pitches is that they focus too much on the person who is talking. Elevator pitches feel too transactional because they are typically all about the person giving the pitch and their idea.

Instead, try to focus on the unique problem you are solving for the person in the room. Instead of saying, “I do this,” speak about the problem you are trying to solve. Set up the scenario for how your idea helps someone else, and only after you’ve connected with your audience can you speak about your experience.

[Read more: The Problem With Your Elevator Pitch — and How to Fix It]

Part of building trust with your audience is validating their understanding.

Keep it brief

This is, perhaps, the most common piece of advice when it comes to elevator pitches. However, it’s also the most difficult one for most entrepreneurs to follow.

There’s a reason why it’s called an elevator pitch: You should be able to explain your idea to someone in the same amount of time as a ride in an elevator. Most experts agree that a good elevator pitch should be 30 to 60 seconds long. Practice saying it out loud and timing yourself if you’re not sure how long it will take for you to complete your pitch. You’ll also be able to hear any unnatural language or strange sentence structure when you speak. And remember, this pitch is only meant to open the door to a longer conversation, not deliver your entire business plan.

Make it easy to understand

Bridgett McGowen, an awarded International Professional Speaker, told FitSmallBusiness that she sees people make the common mistake of starting their pitch with their official job title. Too often, job titles don’t connect with what a professional actually does. It’s easy for your audience to lose interest immediately when they can’t relate to your position.

You should also avoid industry jargon and acronyms with which your audience may not be familiar. Part of building trust with your audience is validating their understanding. Speak using language that resonates and makes your audience feel understood. The more straightforward you can be, the more likely you are to connect.

Finally, leave space for your audience to ask questions. An elevator pitch should be part of natural conversation, rather than a slogan or tag line delivered rapid-fire.

Be ready with the follow-up

An elevator pitch is just the opening to a longer conversation, but many entrepreneurs focus too heavily on the pitch and fail to prepare for that second step.

Anticipate what the first, second and third questions will be after you finish your pitch. Hopefully, the story you’ve told is provocative enough for someone to want to learn more. Have your business card or contact information ready to go if the moment doesn’t allow for longer discussion. Do your homework to make sure you’re able to answer questions with facts and data points.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published August 13, 2020