Let me take you back to a time (1852) when elevators were…a little ‘risky’, shall we say, routinely plummeting down shafts due to hoisting ropes failure. Well, apparently this is where the term 'elevator pitch' actually originates from.
Good old Elisha Otis invented a locking system that would catch and secure a nosediving elevator. He wanted to corral some interest in this game changing innovation and so arranged a demonstration in New York at which he stood in the elevator while his nervous assistant severed the hoisting ropes, and his safety brake, thankfully, engaged. Fast forward to today, where 7 billion ride an elevator every three days. I got to wondering: how many business ideas are pitched during those 7 billion rides and how many coulda, woulda, shoulda moments have there been?
Elisha Graves Otis. Responsible for the elevator pitch to end all elevator pitches.
In my opinion, alongside the concept itself, the elevator pitch is one of the most important tools a founder can craft, and continuously hone and develop throughout their journey. Taking the time to focus solely on documenting and practicing the elevator pitch sets apart determined credible founders from… dreamers. A good elevator pitch allows founders to turn conversations into opportunities, chance meetings into partnerships, or a chance coffee into a valuable collaboration, investment and advancement.
Habits of highly successful founders: Honing your elevator pitch habitually
The habit of continuously revisiting the pitch and sharing it with the team is a quick way to sense check the concept and make sure everyone is still aligned. Sharing the pitch with the entire team and inviting regular feedback is a quick win for creating an inclusive company culture. Being able to look back on the elevator pitch progress can be cathartic and a great way to see tangible progress from elevator pitch version 1 to version 12!
We’ve all been there:
"Mate, tell us the story of how you met your partner! Listen to this - it’s great!"
People that can hold a room with a witty anecdote that their audience feel compelled to pass on, tend to use a simple method: a good story, not too long and importantly, well rehearsed.
The rehearsal happens organically and effortlessly in social groups, age old yarns that have been rolled out dozens of times. Each time, the teller is honing the tale for the next occasion. Consciously or unconsciously, they are getting to know what landed well, slowly greasing the groove for an anecdote they can roll off their tongue at a moment's notice, and actually enjoy telling!
So, when it comes to the ‘impromptu’ pitch, it’s all about:
- Practice - use any opportunity to weave elements of the pitch into conversation
- Personality, when you know your elevator pitch inside and out, you can personalise it in the moment and your delivery will be natural and charismatic.
- Keeping it short and sweet and then pushing the attention, questions and interest back to the listener. Ultimately you want investors to be compelled to know more about your project.
To help get you started, I've put together this simple template for your elevator pitch.
Elevator Pitch Template
Personal or impactful Hook: A question, statement, or a joke, just to make sure you have got their attention before you start (read more about this here).
My Company ________ is developing ________ (a defined and validated offering) to help ________ (a defined and validated audience) to ________ (solve a specific problem)
We are innovating in the ________ (defined market sector) and have identified a defensible route to capture a conservative ________ (value) of the Total Addressable Market (TAM).
You might compare us to ________ (competitor) or ________ (competitor 2), but we ________ (key differentiator).
We are currently looking for ________ (the ask).
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