The elevator pitch or one-minute speech is the backbone of nearly every networking meeting worldwide. Named after the time it takes to go up in a lift (or elevator) it can strike fear into many business people but with practice it’s a crucial skill to master.
Speaking in front of an audience is one of the most commonly held fears. Whether it’s a room of people we know well or an audience of several hundred strangers, public speaking is known to cause a great deal of anxiety.
Most networking meetings give each attendee a chance to talk about their business. The time allocated is usually a minute but sometimes can be as short as 30 seconds.
Presenting your one-minute does get easier with practice. And I do mean practice. It’s no good just turning up on the day and winging it. If you’re going to get the best from your investment of both time and money at any networking event then it’s worth putting in some effort in advance of the meeting and preparing a topic. Don’t be the one sitting waiting for their turn making notes on the back of your business card or worse still on your phone!
There are several things to consider when writing your ‘elevator pitch’.
- Body language
Align your pitch with your audience
One of the most important considerations when preparing your 1-minute, is using language which your audience can relate to. If the room is full of business people from the caring professions, such as teachers, therapists, childcare professionals or HR consultants and you’re a financial adviser, couching your pitch on inheritance tax planning in technical terms may alienate some of the audience. Whilst you don’t want to talk down to anyone, experts in technical fields frequently blind others with science. Knowing your audience and tailoring your language to them is going to be more successful than demonstrating your knowledge of the tax planning bible which might cause drowsiness or boredom. What you find fascinating may be someone else’s worst nightmare!
This is where case studies come into their own. People find it easier to learn by example. If your tax planning advice has resulted in someone saving £100,000 then this will resonate with the whole audience. It isn’t necessary to explain all the complicated trusts, wills and investments involved, just that it was clearly of great value to one of your clients.
Length of a one-minute speech
The average person speaks at a rate of between 125 and 150 words per minute. This will give you a guide when preparing your topic. A sentence is about 10 words, so you are only going to need between 12 and 15 sentences. Always aim to finish early as there is nothing more off-putting than being timed out just as you come to the most crucial part of your pitch – the call to action punchline.
In addition, try not to repeat yourself just to fill up the time. This is where practising in advance with pay off. When you are finished, pause and then sit down.
Topics for an Elevator Pitch
Many networking meetings set a theme for the month’s meeting.Some examples include:
- Bring a prop which represents your business
- Read a testimonial from a customer or client
- Best business tip
- Case study
- Biographical information
- Recommend another member
Vary your topic at each meeting to keep it interesting and to demonstrate a different aspect to your business. For example, if you are a photographer you might talk about headshots one month, wedding photography another, family shoots, baby portraits, product shots – the list is almost endless.
For an accountant topics might include the importance of keeping up-to-date records, options for bookkeeping, year end tax considerations for companies, or even raising finance. A holiday consultant will never run out of ideas but demonstrating the value they can add to your vacation is an important topic as it will encourage members to use this service rather than booking a holiday directly with a tour operator.
Each topic needs to have a structure:
- Introduce the problem
- Outline your solution
- Give reasons why people should trust you
- Explain your value proposition
- Offer a call to action
“My name is Jill Smith and I help busy business owners with their routine tasks freeing them up to concentrate on their core revenue generating activities. After working as a PA in a large oil company for 14 years, I have been working with some of my clients for the past eight years. I have packages suited to people who need help with admin for between 30 minutes and a day a week. This month we are offering a hours free trial. If you know anyone who needs to free up some time in their hectic schedule please ask them to get in touch for a chat.”
The example above is just 107 words which allows for a couple of short pauses to vary the pace of delivery.
If you are very nervous, take a few deep breaths before your turn and don’t apologise for your nervousness as it will only make things worse. If you need to, read your speech as it shows you have prepared and are taking the meeting seriously and you will be more confident the next time you visit the same group.
There are two pieces of advice when it comes to the delivery of your elevator pitch. Firstly, don’t mumble and secondly, don’t ramble. Speak clearly so everyone can hear and look towards as many people as you can in the allotted time. Be yourself and talk naturally as you want everyone to find you approachable.
Finally. I find it is best to stand to give a one-minute. Relax your shoulders and if you’re feeling anxious, hold something in your hands like a leaflet or a pen. When I’m nervous I tend to rock slightly backwards and forwards, so I try to remember to keep still without being stiff.
When you’ve finished talking, turn to the organiser, pause and then sit down slowly. And breath!
It’s almost impossible to build any relationship in just one meeting. The secret to good networking is to show up consistently with interesting stories to tell in your elevator pitch. We’re not stand up comedians or RSC actors, therefore all we have to do is to be ourselves.