Elevator Pitch

… a core concept in Communication Skills and Atlas 109

ElevatorConcept description

Persuasive speakers should be able to describe yourself, your proposal and its value proposition in 30 to 120 seconds, the time span of an elevator ride.

In her presentation, From Pitch to Policy (reference below) Luciana Herman lists nine “essential Cs”: concise, clear, compelling, credible, conceptual, concrete, customized, consistent and conversational.

Herman cites the elements from the Harvard Business School pitch builder:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is your policy area?
  3. Why is it important? What is your goal?
  4. How will you carry it through?
  5. How much and what kind of support do you need to carry it through?

The purpose of the elevator pitch is interest the listener sufficiently to allow you to make the full pitch (in a normal-length presentation) which would include the following elements:

  • What issue/policy matters? Deliver a strong opening.
  • Who are you? What are your qualifications?
  • What is your project?
  • Why is it important? What is the goal? What is the value/benefit of your policy or project? Who needs it? Why is it urgent?
  • How will you carry it out? What policy alternatives exist, as determined, for example through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) or a PEST (political factors, economic factors, sociocultural factors, technological factors) analysis.
  • What are major barriers to carrying out your ideas? How will you overcome them?
  • How will you assess the benefit? When will that benefit accrue?
  • Ask: What do you need now to move forward?
  • Close: Land your closing line memorably.

Herman underlines the importance for an elevator pitch to target your audience, and the following points should be kept in mind:

  • Values resonate.
  • Understand the importance of emotion.
  • Translate for your target audience.
  • Images matter.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Use active words.
  • Know your audience of decision makers and stakeholders. Acknowledge their values / goals.
  • Are you trying to convince people who think like you or is your target audience somehow opposed?
  • What are your shared values and goals?
  • What words make them hear your idea matters to them?
Framing your pitch

Herman suggests that one should address the following questions in sequence:

  • What is your credibility? What is your expertise?
  • What is the need? Why does the policy matter to other groups? What should be done?
  • What are your values? What are the phrases that express common values – between you and your target decision maker, between you and dominant thinking in your policy area?
  • Who benefits from your policy idea? Or if you are seeking a job, how does the organization benefit from hiring you?
  • Who does your pitch leave out? Is that a strategic choice?
  • Revise your message, create your pitch.

Vanessa Van Edwards, 2014, How to Have a Kickass Elevator Pitch, 7-minute YouTube video, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi41U9ahyoE, accessed 2 February 2016.

Vanessa Van Edwards, 2014, The Best Elevator Pitch, 7-minute YouTube video, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi41U9ahyoE, accessed 2 February 2016.

Max Simon, 2013, Elevator Pitch – Do your elevator pitch in 60 seconds and nail it! 4-minute YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WopXXTNDWsM, accessed 2 February 2016.


Drawn from Luciana Herman, From Pitch to Policy, at http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericaswallow/2012/06/27/elevator-pitch/#4c600a292375, accessed 2 February 2016.

Normed topic and synthetic course with which the concept is primarily associated

This concept is primarily associated with the core normed topic Speaking to Persuade and is included in the synthetic course outline Atlas109 Leadership and Communication Skills.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 1 April 2016.

Image: Forbes.com, at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/caveman-logic/201010/the-uptalk-epidemic, accessed 2 February 2016.