The Problem With Elevator Pitches

Everyone knows CEOs, vice presidents, angel investors, recruiters and all other power brokers spend a good portion of their day just riding up and down in elevators going from one high-level meeting to the next. Right? And everyone also knows the best chance to connect with the otherwise "unconnectable" is to seize the 60 or so seconds you have with them when you're inadvertently (or purposefully) stuck in said elevator to "pitch" your wares. Right again? Although the thought behind an elevator pitch is all well and good, the problem lies in the execution.

Neatly packaged, scripted messages almost always sound like neatly packaged, scripted messages.

Don't get me wrong—it's absolutely critical for you to be able to clearly and concisely articulate your talking points and to have a purpose for each and every conversation—but it's also critical that you are able to deliver your talking points in a way that doesn't sound like you're reading from a teleprompter.

Elevator pitches almost always end up as one way communications.

If you've ever been on the receiving end of an elevator pitch, you know exactly what I mean. In fact, there's nothing more ineffective than having someone talk at you uncontrollably for 1-2 minutes—think pull-string dolls that were popular in the 1960s and 70s. I've had the misfortune of hearing unsolicited pitches from networKINGs, social media queens, and rainmakers (all self-proclaimed) when all I wanted was to learn more about their background and to have a conversation—not to listen to a long-winded diatribe.

Meaningful connections require meaningful exchanges.

To be successful, you have to invite the person you're speaking with into an actual two-way conversation—not a one-way pitch. Listen to his or her thoughts, observe his or her reactions and adjust your messaging accordingly. Finally, and arguably most important, deliver your talking points in a way that makes the person you're speaking with feel like it's the first time you've ever had the conversation (even if it's the 257th).

Shawn Graham collaborates with small- to medium-sized companies to develop impactful social media and marketing communications content and strategies and seasoned job seekers to help them find their true north. Find Shawn at

Add New Comment


  • jeff wolff

    The main point in my opinion of elevator pitches is knowing your product in and out, up and down, and everything in between. This insures that when the questions start flying you are on top of them. With that said, when the questions start flying, it is usually about ceompetitors. You had better know those answers too. i.e..."What make you different than the XYZ co?" Learn all you can!!

  • Shawn Graham

    Jeff - tight talking points and subject matter expertise are huge--but it's also important to make sure your delivery doesn't come off as overly rehearsed. I can definitely tell when someone is rehashing a canned story--and it doesn't make for a great dialogue.

  • Shawn Graham

    Thanks, Josh. I agree--and the canned elevator pitches sound even more canned when you're speaking with someone over the phone. I really like your idea of creating talking points around their questions or background.