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The Elevator Pitch

Wed, 14 July 2010

The term ‘elevator pitch’ is used to describe the overview or presentation that an entrepreneur might give to describe their business, products or services to an investor or business angel.
As the name suggests, the pitch is usually delivered in the time it would take to ride an elevator (anything from 30 seconds to 2 minutes) and is used to help an investor weed out bad ideas.
An elevator pitch is usually done face to face, although can sometimes be done in writing or by video submission.
Part of the judging process for the £5,000 Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Programme involves those who have been shortlisted being asked to submit a one minute elevator pitch video so that other Shell LiveWIRE members can vote on their favourite and help choose the winners. 
Below are some tips to help you prepare for your pitch.

Master Your Elevator Pitch

There are hundreds of articles and blogs out there that can give you tips and advice on how to deliver a winning elevator pitch. ‘Be memorable’, ‘sell yourself as well as your product’, ‘keep it short’, ‘don’t use jargon’, ‘don’t drown your listeners with data’, ‘be natural’, ‘make them care about you’, ‘tell a story’, ‘practice, practice, practice’. These are all excellent tips, but even if you do all of these things, you can be let down by your delivery and how you carry yourself. So we’ve pulled together our top tips for mastering the physical side of delivering a pitch. 
  1. Separate yourself from your message (ever so briefly). We are not who we naturally are when we’re delivering a practiced message to a group of strangers. When you’re practicing your pitch, try filming yourself, rather than practicing in front of a mirror. When you practice in front of a mirror you get the chance to correct yourself as you progress through your pitch; a video gives you no such luxury. As your play the video back, look critically at how you’re holding yourself. If you’re new to pitching or presenting, chances are your body is quite rigid, with only the occasional hand gesture. Alternatively, maybe you’re moving around a bit more but your movements look forced. Separate yourself from your message and think about how you hold yourself when you’re talking to family or friends – odds are you’re much more open and relaxed. This is the person you want to deliver your pitch. The area made up of your shoulders, head and neck is often called the Tension Triangle because this is where we start to tense up when we’re stressed, nervous, or anxious. This can make you look visibly tense and uncomfortable. On the day of your pitch, try to picture yourself delivering your pitch to friends and family and make a conscious effort to let the tension in your shoulders and neck drop. 
Check out this great pitch from Tom Robinson, co-founder of Adaptavate. He looks quite relaxed and natural and it really shows in his delivery:
  1. Let it out. When we get nervous our posture, voice, and breathing can sabotage us. Our voices can shake, we close our posture down, and we start to talk fast and throw off our breathing. Pitching brings a special kind of stress – you’re trying to get someone to buy into your business, invest money in it, or just start a conversation around it. In other words, if you get it wrong there are very real consequences. Before your pitch, find somewhere you can be alone and let yourself let out a long, loud sigh, holding the sound as long as it takes to push out all of your breath. Do this a few times. The object here is to give your vocal chords a chance to warm up so you don’t begin your pitch with a croaking voice – it can also help get the shakiness out of your voice if you're especially nervous. Once you’ve got your voice warmed up and you’re waiting to go in to deliver your pitch, take a moment to remind yourself to stand up straight and take 3-5 deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Without even knowing it, stressful situations can cause us to roll our bodies inward into a slouch. Holding a good posture will help to open your airways – it will also make you look more confident in addition to having the psychological benefit of making you feel more confident and in control. Win-win-win.
  2. Keep your hands busy. It’s always great to have a sample of your product on hand when you pitch, but this can be tricky for service-based businesses or new businesses. If a product sample isn’t possible, get yourself a prop. If you’ve developed an app that helps homeowners monitor their energy usage, bring a bagful of pound coins to demonstrate the savings your customers receive. In other words, get creative if you have to but get something in your hands. Props are fantastic in a pitch. They make you memorable and they put the product right in your audience’s face, but most importantly for our purposes, they give you something to do with your hands and they tether you to your message. When we get nervous, we do all kinds of unnatural things with our hands. Having something to hold can make your delivery more natural because you’re movements are no longer forced and you’re no longer talking about some idea that’s in your head or in a business plan, you’re talking about the thing that’s right there in your hands. This will make your movements more natural, but it will also help you stay focused on your message – if you get nervous and start to lose focus, your product/prop can bring you back around. 
In this pitch, you can see how much stronger Solveiga’s pitch is because she’s able to hold and demonstrate her product:
Remember, the primary point of an elevator pitch is to make sure that your listeners leave with the information you want them to. This is a challenge for any business but these tips will hopefully give you the tools you need to ensure you are physically prepared to deliver the best possible pitch. For more great examples of elevator pitches, check out the Shell LiveWIRE UK YouTube channel or contact the Shell LiveWIRE team, who would be happy to help you get your pitch ready.