What is an Elevator Pitch?

In my experience, no one enjoys giving an Elevator Pitch. In fact, very few people can answer “What Do You Do?”, successfully. As soon as someone asks you that question, it feels like that winning moment on the Who Wants To Be a Millionaire game show. The music halts to a stop, a giant spotlight beams on your face and the room is instantly quiet, awaiting your response. In less than a minute, you need to be real, spontaneous, interesting, witty and personable. Your words need to sound like they didn’t come out of a canned pitch; it needs to look effortless. No problem, right?

Where did “Elevator Pitch” Come From?

There are a number of stories claiming the origin of the Elevator Pitch. A popular one came from a quality test technician, Philip Crosby. Crosby planned a speech regarding the change he wanted to see at his company and waited at the corporate headquarters elevator. He stepped onto an elevator with the company’s CEO in order to deliver his speech. Once they reached the floor in which the CEO was getting off, Crosby was asked to deliver a full presentation on the topic at a meeting for all of the general managers.  Now, that’s an effective Elevator Pitch!

However, I have another Elevator Pitch origin story, that is even better. This story delivers rationale for the name, and it includes a historic dramatic reveal. Hands down, making it the best Elevator Pitch origin story, in my opinion. Elisha Graves Otis was an inventor of an elevator safety device in the 1850s. According to Wikipedia, in 1852, Otis began developing a device that would improve the safety of elevators, specifically related to the hoists used to lift heavy equipment to upper floors. The device was created out of steel wagon spring meshing and provided a backup catch and hold mechanism if the rope lifting the elevator gave way. In 1854, in the Crystal Palace Exposition in New York in front of a big audience, Otis revealed his device. He did so by lifting an elevator, like normal, but as it was positioned approximately halfway up the elevator shaft, the rope was cut. The elevator platform was held in place by Otis’ device. This can be known as the first elevator pitch ever.

What is an Elevator Pitch?

An Elevator Pitch, speech or statement is a short description of a person’s occupation, product, service or idea. The description clearly conveys the concept to the listener in a short period of time. You want your pitch, to excite your listener. You will know your Elevator Pitch is working, when you engage in dialogue after you deliver your pitch. A successful Elevator Pitch will lead surface conversation into deeper dialogue. This is essential in creating connection with the listener; and the reason an Elevator Pitch is so difficult for most of us to deliver.

The recommended length of an Elevator Pitch ranges depending on the situation and common sense. You know how awkward it can be to appear interested in a never-ending introduction. As a marketer, having to listen to a bad Elevator Pitch, makes my ears hurt. The standard rule of thumb for the message length should be no more than 30-45 seconds.

What Makes A Successful Elevator Pitch?

There are six components to a successful Elevator Pitch. These include the greeting, identification, credibility, personality, connection and interaction. Each of these components meet a specific listener need and engage the listener. I am passionate about helping people to create effective Elevator Pitches while being confident delivering them. I have developed a very structured, step by step way to create and deliver effective Elevator Pitches. I am in the process of finalizing my Elevator Pitch Mastery Program and will be launching it soon. To be notified of the program release and updates, please subscribe to our newsletter or connect with us.





About the author

For over 20 years, Sandy Gerber has revitalized marketing and messaging for companies of all sizes, including some of North America’s most beloved brands. The author of two books, founder of three successful businesses, and visionary of the Emotional Magnetism™ communication technique and education products, Sandy is passionate about empowering individuals to become masters of effective communication. She offers Marketing Consulting, Communications Training and Coaching in “Emotional Magnetism” and is a professional, Vancouver-based guest speaker for businesses, events and organizations.