Last week, I had the opportunity to present a pitch workshop at a wonderful conference hosted by the Center for Socially Responsible Business at Mills College. They asked me to focus on helping entrepreneurs hone their elevator pitch to engage listeners in their business vision. I was delighted to offer this workshop since we require participants in our Building Operational Capacity and Funding a Business modules to deliver their elevator pitches every week to their peers and mentors.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of an elevator pitch, it’s an overview of you and your business or business idea. It’s helpful to have an elevator pitch for just about any social setting where you need to give an introduction of who you are and what you do. Your description should be easy for anyone to understand, even if they are not familiar with your industry. And, as the name suggests, it should be short enough to be delivered in the time it takes to ride up a few floors in an elevator, which is about 30-60 seconds.
For many entrepreneurs, myself included, it can be difficult to zoom out from the details of our business idea and plans and put together an effective high-level pitch. This week, we’re sharing some steps you can take to create an effective elevator pitch.
Step 1: Identify Your Goal
Start by thinking about the goal of your pitch. Are you launching your business? Are you looking to increase your customer base? Are you looking for strategic partners? Are you pursuing a funding round for your business? Or, do you need a general pitch to answer the question of “what do you do?”
Example: The goal of this pitch is to introduce myself and Uptima Business Bootcamp to potential customers.
Step 2: Create a Hook
A hook is an opening statement that should get the attention of the listener and set the stage for the rest of your pitch. Perhaps the best hook for an elevator pitch is your story. Our brains are wired for stories, and we connect with people on a personal level when we share our stories. By telling a little bit about your background and why you’re passionate about this business or idea, you connect with the listener on a personal level.
Example: I have a long history with entrepreneurship – like many immigrant families, I watched my mom take on microentrepreneurial activities, such as cleaning people’s houses, to help support our family.
Step 3: Describe Your Business or Idea
Describe what your business does or what your idea is. Focus on the reason you had this business idea. What is the problem that you saw and are trying to solve through your business? Anyone should be able to easily understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. So, avoid industry-specific jargon and acronyms.
Example: We provide greater access to education, mentorship, resources, and community to help diverse entrepreneurs create thriving businesses.
Step 4: Identify Your Target Market
Briefly identify the customers you wish to attract for your products or services. There is a little bit of a dance here. You want your description to be broad enough so that anyone can understand who you are targeting. At the same time, you want to be specific enough so that your ideal customer, strategic partner, employee, or funder can see themselves in your pitch and want to learn more.
Example: We serve freelancers, small business owners, and startup founders in Oakland and San Francisco.
Step 5: Explain How You Solve Their Problem
This is a brief description of what your business offers or plans to offer. These are your products and services. And, how your products and services work to meet the needs of your target market. Again, you want anyone to understand your offering and its benefits, so avoid technical terms and details.
Example: We offer classes and business advising services that encourage entrepreneurs to think holistically about their businesses – what business success means to them, how they want their businesses to fit into their lifestyles, and what kind of positive community impact they want to make with their businesses.
Step 6: Demonstrate Your Value Proposition
Your value proposition is what sets your business apart from the other businesses that are offering similar solutions. This is how your business provides a unique experience. It creates another hook in your elevator pitch by getting the listener to think about how your business can provide value to them as a customer, strategic partner, employee, or funder.
Example: Our member-ownership model means that we are the first business accelerator structured as a cooperative, where the people who come through our programs, the people who work in them, and the people who provide the capital to start them, are all owners who share in the profits and governance of their local accelerator.
Step 7: Add a Call to Action
Your elevator pitch should include a call to action. This is some action you want the listener to take. Your call to action should tie back to your goal for the elevator pitch. If you are looking for more customers, you might direct them to your website, storefront, or an event you are having to learn more about your products or services and potentially make a purchase. If you are looking for funding, you might let them know how much money you are looking for and how they can help you find funders or participate in your funding round.
Example: Since my goal is to increase our customer base, I want listeners to go to our website at uptimabootcamp.com to learn more about how we work and apply for one of our programs.
Step 8: Put it All Together
Once you’ve completed the previous steps, it’s time to put it all together into a compelling paragraph. Then, read it aloud while timing yourself. Make sure it’s concise, flows well, and covers enough information to spark interest in your business or idea, but not too much information that you risk losing the listener’s interest. And most importantly, make sure that it excites you – if you’re not excited about delivering your elevator pitch, how can you get others excited about your business.
Example: Hi, I’m Rani Langer-Croager, co-founder of Uptima Business Bootcamp, a network of member-owned business accelerators. I have a long history with entrepreneurship – like many immigrant families, I watched my mom take on microentrepreneurial activities, such as cleaning people’s houses, to help support our family. I founded Uptima to provide greater access to education, mentorship, resources, and community to help diverse entrepreneurs create thriving businesses. We offer classes and business advising services to freelancers, small business owners, and startup founders in Oakland and San Francisco. Our programs encourage entrepreneurs to think holistically about their businesses – what business success means to them, how they want their businesses to fit into their lifestyles, and what kind of positive community impact they want to make with their businesses. Our member-ownership model means that we are the first business accelerator structured as a cooperative, where the people who come through our programs, who work in them, and who provide the capital to start them, are all owners who share in the profits and governance of their local accelerator. You can find more information about our accelerators on our website at uptimabootcamp.com.
Step 9: Practice, Practice, Practice
To get comfortable with your elevator pitch, you need to put aside the written paragraph and practice it. You may want to start out by practicing it to yourself in the mirror or recording and playing it back to yourself. Then, graduate to practicing it with people you are close to and who can give you feedback. As you start practicing in front of people, you might find yourself trying to recite the paragraph word-for-word and getting stuck on what to say next. This is normal. Shake it off. And try again, speaking from your heart not your head. The more you practice your elevator pitch, the more you embody it.