You’re walking along a crowded street downtown on a Tuesday afternoon on your way to Starbucks to refuel the now depleted caffeine levels in your bloodstream when…

…a hand reaches out and taps your arm.

It’s Bob, an acquaintance from college who, after exchanging pleasantries, tells you he is now working with one of your target prospect firms.

Bob asks, “So what are you doing these days?”

Caught a little off guard, you stammer, hunting for the right words while also rambling a little (who knew stammering AND rambling simultaneously was even possible?!). Something spills out of your mouth and, while it’s all true, it’s also rather messy and unclear and you’re left feeling awkward…if not unsuccessful.

THIS is that moment, one of many moments when having an “elevator pitch” in your back pocket would have been useful. Very useful.

Many people struggle to succinctly and effortlessly respond in this type of situation unless they have taken a bit of time to compose their thoughts.

Here’s the low down on the elevator pitch, including steps to help you develop one of your own.

Why is it called an “elevator pitch?”

Simple…because the entire thing should only take about 20 or 30 seconds for you to share – about the duration of a typical elevator ride. I’m writing about it because it’s actually messaging in one of its shortest forms. Don’t like the term elevator pitch, call it your “key message.”

What does a good elevator pitch accomplish?

An elevator pitch is a brief statement that sparks interest. It can be adapted to create interest in a company, project, product or idea. In some settings, when you’re looking for a new job for example, an elevator pitch can be used to prompt curiosity about YOU.

What are the criteria for a good elevator pitch?

Interesting. Persuasive. Succinct.

Where to begin?

It’s best to start with the end in mind. What are the specific objectives for this pitch? Are you in a business scenario, responding to an inquiry about the firm you represent? Are you an entrepreneur looking to develop clients or funders? Are you looking for new employment? Or is there a specific product or service you’d like to introduce to people?
Bottom line: understand where you want to take someone before you begin even this short journey.

Now for the pitch itself. Who is your Target Audience?

“Anyone” or “companies” are not good answers here. Get specific. Think in terms of “ideals” not broad-brush generalities.

If you’re a therapist, sure, you could work with nearly anyone; but your ideal is to work with other counselors and therapists who find themselves fatigued from constantly supporting those in need.

As a corporate communications specialist, companies are your clients. However, your experience as a senior executive specializing in internal communications identifies your best clients as those that have a work force large enough to demand expert internal communications skills like yours.

What do you do for this audience?

Again, get specific. For example, I’m embarrassed to admit how often I’ve said, “I’m a marketing consultant.” UGH!!!

Let’s face it, this banal response leaves a lot of room for interpretation because, really, it says nothing. Who do I work with specifically and how do I help them?

Close the gap and be explicit. Better for me to say, “I’m a messaging strategist who helps companies find the words and phrases that bring their brand to life.”

Why are you uniquely qualified to deliver?

Note the word “uniquely.” What makes you – your firm, your product, your service – special? Each of the above questions, answered well, is a step toward differentiation. This question challenges you to push it a bit further.

Let’s look at the therapist example:

Who is your target audience: “counselors who have become drained by their service to others.” Already, this distinguishes you from many other therapists.

What you do for this audience: “I help counselors restore themselves using mindfulness, compassion and enhanced self-care.” These are distinctive tools used to support the target clients.


How are you uniquely qualified to deliver: “I am a counselor myself and understand the special circumstance of becoming completely drained by a profession that I love and for which I have great passion.” You’ve personally been through what your target audience is experiencing.

Bringing it all together

This template has been helpful to my clients in developing their elevator pitch. While the template may produce something that feels a little clunky initially, some editing and refinement will soon allow you to succinctly and persuasively share your message with others.


For [target audience], [brand name] is the [frame of reference] that delivers [benefit/point of difference] because only [brand name] is [reason to believe].


The corporate communications specialist’s first draft looked like this:

For [senior level executives at large companies], [Pro Communications] is the [communications consultancy] that delivers [executive-level communications strategy, implementation and measurement services] because only [Pro Consulting] [provides adept message refinement that makes complex strategies simple to authentically and creatively engage stakeholders.]


Yikes! This is a mouthful and not likely something to roll off of anyone’s tongue. Edited and refined, however, this became an elevator pitch that felt personal, direct and adaptable.


This version flows better:

Pro Communications helps senior level executives at larger, Fortune 1000-level firms with communications strategy, implementation and measurement services. We quickly refine key messages in a way that makes complex ideas simple, enabling our clients to authentically engage their stakeholders.


This approach creates an elevator pitch that quickly sparks interest in you and your work. Need to sharpen your key message? Give this exercise a try and share your new pitch in the comments!


Photo by Scott Szarapka on Unsplash

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