Tell Me More: Three Steps to an Effective Elevator Pitch

By: Elizabeth Usovicz, General Manager of Transaction Commons, as part of a series she writes for ACA aimed at entrepreneurs, "Your Pitch is Just the Beginning."

As an entrepreneur, your pitch is arguably the most important message about your company’s investment-readiness that you will ever deliver. Most entrepreneurs develop two versions of a pitch: a short, elevator version, and a longer, investor presentation with a slide deck. Your elevator pitch is much more than a compressed investor presentation without the slide deck. It’s a precious few seconds of your listener’s attention in which to communicate your passion, describe your innovative product or service and clarify its value from an investor’s point of view.  

The Elevator Pitch Starts Conversations

The short version of your company overview is approximately 150 concise and well-chosen words, delivered in 60 seconds or less. Think of it as your “Tell me more” pitch. The objective is to create interest, and open the door to a conversation. There are many ways to develop your pitch; this three-part framework can help you to begin or to refine your elevator version:

  • Create a mental picture: Research suggests that passion is contagious. Transmit yours with an image, metaphor or analogy that creates a memorable mental picture and generates curiosity. One of the most effective pitches I’ve heard recently started with the simple, thought-provoking tagline, “(Company) is where big data meets the tractor.”

  • Tell the story: Every innovative idea, product or service has a story. That story started somewhere – with an observation or experience that led to questions, which led to an improvement. Tell the highlights of that story in three brief phrases: the experience, your key question and how your idea improves the current experience.

  • Connect the dots to the opportunity:  End your pitch with a profile of the customers that benefit from your idea, product or service, and why they will pay for the improvement.

Post-Pitch Questions

Ideally, a pitch is not a monologue. It takes place within the context of a conversation, in answer to a statement such as “Tell me about your company.” Prepare a few open-ended questions in advance to continue the post-pitch dialogue. Here are a few examples:

  • What are your thoughts on this?
  • What experience or expertise have you had in this area?
  • Who else do you know who has expertise in this area?
  • Who else comes to mind as someone I should talk to?

Whether it’s at a meet-up, pitch event or other business networking opportunity, you never know whom you’ll meet or who they may know. In just a few seconds, your elevator pitch can open doors to conversations that lead to potential investors.