How to Create the Perfect Elevator Pitch for your Small Business

networking elevator pitch

What do you do?  It’s a question we’re asked all the time.  At parties.  At meetings.  Networking events.  Everywhere.

But how do you answer it?  With an engaging confidence that makes people want to know more? (yay for you!) Or do you panic and simply recite your title, or (yikes!) give a whole explanation that leaves the other person with their eyes glossed over?

We all want to have that engaging confidence, right? Well, the key is to be prepared and ready to easily explain it when someone asks. Yup, I’m talking about what most people refer to as the good ol’ Elevator Pitch.

First of all, the objective of your Elevator Pitch is to get someone’s attention and interest and get them to engage with you.  No one expects that you should be able to sell them on your entire business in just 30 seconds.  Think of it as the Ice Breaker that will hopefully lead to more conversation about what you do.

Sound good? Let’s go ahead and jump right in.

Here are some general rules to keep in mind:

  • Keep it short and simple. The whole thing should only last about 30 seconds.
  • Stick to your core message and keep your introduction low-level.  The details can come out later in the conversation.
    • No jargon.  It must be understandable by anyone. Even your Grandpa. And if you're using jargon, you're giving too much detail -- you're making it easier for you to tell, but not for others to understand.  Keep your language casual, like you would in any other conversation with someone you just met. 

    As for crafting your Elevator Pitch, here’s a simple 3-step formula : Problem.  Solution.  Proof.

    Part 1: The Problem. 

    Start off by telling why you do what you do. It's important to set up the 'why' before you explain your 'what.'  The reason?  People will be better able to understand what you do, if they know why you're doing it.  Answer the question: what problem do you solve?

    To grab their attention, open your pitch with a question or a statement that makes their ears perk up and want to know more. I like to put it in a scenario format so they can visualize the problem. You want people to remember the problem, so when people hear someone mention it, they’ll  remember you and say, “Hey, I know a guy!” (That’s you! You’re the guy!)

    Part 2: The Solution.

    What do you do? And who do you help?  Remember, keep the jargon and the details to a minimum here, and make sure you explain how you solve the problem you set up in Part 1.  Let them know what’s in it for them, while telling them what makes you unique (an approach, technique, outcome).

    Is your service/product difficult to explain?  Try using the Anchor and Twist technique. You can read about that here.​

    Part 3: The Proof.

    Give an example of how well your solution works.  Here you can tell a customer success story or provide other proof that you’re credible, like a recent award or being featured in the press.  Don’t think of this as bragging, but instead about showing you’re capable of getting the result you just talked about in part 2.

    When you put it all together conversationally, it’ll look like this:

    You know {problem}?    Well, what I do is {solution}.    And actually, {proof and examples.}

    Here’s an example of a pitch in action:

    You know how sometimes you’re watching TV and someone who does exactly what you do is on TV, and you think, “I could do that.”  Well, what I do is teach small business owners and experts how to get themselves in the press for free.  And actually, just the other day, one of my students had a TV crew come to her house to film for a national network.  She was really excited because she’s just starting out. She doesn’t even have a product to sell yet!

    Jargon makes it easier for you to tell, but not for others to understand. #elevatorpitch

    Click to Tweet

    Once you have your elevator pitch down, grab a friend, and tell them what you do.  Then have them tell you  what they think you do.  If they didn’t understand it or they seem confused, go back and edit your pitch.   (By the way, if they were confused or just didn't understand, don't dismiss them and say  'they just don't get it' because they don't understand your industry.  Remember that most people  you meet won't have a high level of understanding of what you do, either.   So if that happens, it just means that you’ve got to work on what you’re saying. 

    Having trouble coming up with what to say? Or do you have a difficult to understand business? I put together an exercise sheet to help you brainstorm and put it all together. Click here to download.

    On the other hand, if you see their eyes open a little wider and they respond by asking you a question, you know you’ve hit the Elevator Pitch jackpot. Now memorize it so you’re telling the same story every time and your brand stays consistent – although you can tailor your ‘proof’ to suit the audience.  And remember, great connections are often made face-to-face, and aren’t always planned. Having an elevator speech at the ready means you won’t miss opportunities.

    What do you think?  Have you had success with your elevator pitch? Or are you going to change it up a bit? Let me know in the comments below.

    About the Author Melanie Downey

    I'm Melanie Downey, small business brand innovator and public relations expert. I like to teach and write about what I've learned in 20 years working in brand development, PR, and marketing. And when I'm not doing that, I cook, drive my kids around, hang out with my hairless dog, Penny, and practice playing my ukulele.

    follow me on: