Mastering the art of delivering an effective elevator pitch can make or break you as an entrepreneur. From pitching your idea to a potential business partner, to convincing a key investor to come on board, or winning over your first client, there’s a lot on the line when it’s time to make a pitch.
While there’s certainly a set of best practices and time-tested guidelines from countless great examples, putting together a strong elevator pitch isn’t as simple as just following a formula and filling in the blanks. It’s an art, not a science.
Moreover, recent trends suggest that people, especially millennials, are becoming increasingly invested in the why behind a business—the greater purpose your company exists to serve—rather than simply what your product or service offering is.
That makes storytelling and building confidence all the more important within your elevator pitch. Sure, the details of your product and existing traction matter, but your pitch needs to dig much deeper. If you can build a meaningful connection with your audience around shared principles and goals, then the stage is already set for success.
Robert Herjavec, serial entrepreneur and investor on ABC’s Shark Tank, has heard thousands of elevator pitches throughout his career. When asked about what sets a winning pitch apart from the rest, he says timing and momentum are everything.
“You have 90 seconds, if you’re lucky,” Herjavec shares. “If you can’t make your point persuasively in that time, you’ve lost the chance for impact. Facts and figures are important, but it’s not the only criteria, you must present in a manner that generates expertise and confidence.”
Regardless of what you’re selling, Herjavec believes that more time usually isn’t going to help your pitch. In fact, it’s probably hurting your effectiveness.
Recent studies show that the average adult attention span has dropped to around 8 seconds—with the natural reflex to check notifications on our smart phones picking up pace. Couple that with the fact that most people subconsciously form opinions about people within the first seven seconds of an interaction, and it’s clear that you have a very short window of time to make a powerful impression with your elevator pitch.
From my own experience delivering countless pitches and through interviews with dozens of top entrepreneurs, here are four ways to quickly build confidence with your elevator pitch:
- Know what’s motivating your audience. Before you can hope to build confidence and make a connection with your audience, you need to know who they are and what they care about, as it relates to your pitch. If you’re pitching an investor, they’re going to care (a lot) about why you’re the best person to beat the market. What’ll push you ahead of competitors? What’s your proprietary technology? How are you acquiring customers? Do your homework ahead of time, and be conscious of the goals your audience has.
- Show social proof. The more trustworthy you can prove to be, the more likely your audience is to buy into what you’re pitching, and social proof is the currency of trust. When you’re delivering a quick elevator pitch, incorporate social proof by sharing a brief story that illustrates a customer’s transformation. If you’re using a slide deck, incorporate a few diverse testimonials from customers you’ve helped, and clearly explain the different benefits they’ve experienced as a result of working with you.
- Craft a story that gets your audience on your team. Rather than boastfully listing off your accomplishments, put in the work to construct a story that shows your expertise and demonstrates why you’re uniquely qualified to accomplish what you’re setting out to do. Set the stage for how you identified the problem you’re solving, explain what’s lacking from existing solutions, agitate the problem with a personal example and then illustrate how you’ve already been able to solve this challenge for yourself—and ideally a few early customers.
- Anticipate and answer key questions. There are certain big questions investors will always ask, either during or immediately after your pitch, if you don’t address them first. What’s the size of your market? What’s your competitive advantage? What’s been driving your early traction? Why do you personally care about this problem? The more of these concerns you can address head-on, the more confident your audience will be in your ability to drive the business forward in the long run.