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Understanding your sector
Understanding your sector

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3.3 The elevator pitch

The practical tips outlined in Sections 3.1 and 3.2 will provide you with useful ideas about making the most of situations where you might be able to do some networking.

Imagine this scenario, however:

You find yourself in a lift whose only other occupant is Sir Richard Branson, someone you admire for their entrepreneurial spirit and success. You are keen to start your own business but also know that you have two minutes before he will get out of the lift.

How do you use this time as effectively as possible to impress him and establish a relationship that might be professionally valuable to you?

This is the concept known as the ‘elevator pitch’, which, as the name implies, comes from the USA. It is based on the notion that you have a short space of time in which to make an impression on someone who might be able to help you. The idea is that you should always have a short piece about yourself – that encapsulates and sells you – ready to bring out at short notice if the occasion demands. It shouldn’t look rehearsed or be delivered in a formal way, but it should say something about you with important facts that you want people to remember.

The key principles of an elevator pitch are:

  • keep it short – no more than a minute or so
  • have a hook – get their attention by telling them something interesting about yourself
  • target it appropriately – think about your audience and what they will find arresting
  • practice makes perfect – make sure that you know the details by heart so that you don’t stumble.

Essentially you should be telling people:

  • why they should listen to you
  • why they should believe you
  • what special knowledge/expertise you have that will interest them.

An elevator pitch is a technique to use sparingly in situations where you have limited time and with people whom you need to impress quickly. It is not something that you would trot out on every occasion when you are networking, as it would not be appropriate in many situations and would be as likely to repel people as to attract them. Remember that the aim of this technique is to capture the attention of a particular person with a view to securing more of their time, either immediately or at some point in the future.

The following is an example of an elevator pitch that takes about 30 seconds to deliver, but which would hopefully grab the attention of its intended audience.

Hi, my name is Eleanor Podmore and I am a client manager at Impact Marketing Solutions. I have ten years’ experience of working with commercial clients to identify their needs and to create exciting and memorable campaigns for them. You may have seen the TV adverts we designed for Big Panda sportswear and FiveaDay fruit smoothies that boosted their sales by over 30 per cent each. I am looking to develop my career by starting a social enterprise focused on helping recycling companies to market themselves more effectively. I wondered if I could have five minutes of your time to talk through a few ideas.

Activity 5 The elevator pitch

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Spend 10 minutes devising a short personal elevator pitch. The following list indicates the type of information you might include, although you should try not to include too much detail:

  • your name
  • something interesting about you that is relevant to them
  • the last project/assignment/job, etc. that you worked on and its results
  • the impact of your work on others – colleagues, clients, customers, etc.
  • why you are a good person to know/work with/employ
  • what you want from your audience.

Try to reduce your pitch to something that can be delivered in about 30 seconds to 1 minute; any longer and you will lose your audience’s attention.

Practise your pitch on someone you know well until it becomes something that you don’t need to think too hard about.


As indicated earlier, an elevator pitch should be used in very specific circumstances. It is also a technique that doesn’t come easily to many people as it seems rather egocentric. Try to devise a set of words that seem natural and will appear unrehearsed. In this way, you will be more likely to come across to your audience as sincere and compelling.

With practice, these techniques should enable you to be more effective when networking. So far, the discussion has assumed that your networking would be face to face and, of course, this is very often the case. Increasingly, however, people are networking online and the next section deals with some of the issues related to this growing area.