Prologue: Last Friday, while attending the infamous Startup Chowdown lunch at Atlanta Tech Village I sat at one of the communal tables and introduced myself around the table. The gentlemen next to me said he just joined the Tech Village community and this was his first lunch. I asked what brought him here. He said he is working on his startup. That naturally brought the next question,
"What does your startup do?"
He then began talking, and talking, and talking. I scanned the table to see if others were following/understanding what he was saying. Clearly all were puzzled, but courteously trying their best to comprehend what his business was all about. He spoke for a solid 4 minutes (I timed it) and in the end no one around him was any wiser about his business. We all had the same puzzled look.
This is a common problem for startup founders. The "elevator pitch". The ability to clearly describe what it is you do in a manner that is both clear and leaves those you want to be intrigued enough to want to learn more.
I thought it might be time I dusted off and republish an article I wrote 3-years ago (2014) on this subject. I hope you find this helpful.
Ah! The infamous "elevator pitch". How many of you have this refined in such a manner that you can actually give it in an elevator or any other setting for that manner?
Why is this important?
Well here is a case where a strong elevator pitch can be valuable.
At the start of nearly every Board of Advisory event at the Metro Atlanta Chamber the host would send a microphone around the entire room giving everyone an opportunity to stand up and state your name, your company name and "what it is you do" to an audience of 50 to 100 local business leaders.
There are several ways the moderator would keep this from consuming the entire time allocated for the event itself. One way was to restrict the person to saying this in three breaths (three sentences). Another was to limit it to 10 seconds. This kind of scenario is not uncommon.
Are you prepared for it?
I use the following elevator scenario with my clients to hone their ability to clearly articulate what it is they do:
You just walked into the 3rd floor elevator at a shopping mall and just before the door closes an important business acquaintance you haven't seen in a long while squeezes in the door at the last second. He/she recognizes you and says, "Mike! Good to see you again. What are you up to nowadays?" He presses the first floor button. The elevator starts to move. How will you reply?
A typical elevator will cover two floors in 10 - 16 seconds. To allow for a response I suggest your pitch should last no more than 10 seconds.So now that we know how long it should be, what are the ingredients of a good elevator pitch? When stating what you do it should be,
"Wow, that's interesting. I'd like to hear more. Let's get together for coffee."
Of course, if the person is not in the market for your services another good response could be,
"Interesting, I might know someone who could use your services.”
The bottom line is be clear, be compellingly different, and be brief.