The Key To A Killer Elevator Pitch Is Not Pitching

If Your Startup Were A Person, Does Your Elevator Pitch Adequately Capture Their Personality? 

When we introduce someone new to a friend, we do so with the intent of capturing how interesting or unique they are. To achieve this, we usually describe this person with introductions like, “Jessica is a big-time CEO of a thriving startup just written up in the NY Times” or “Alex is a superhero programmer that saves businesses from hackers who try to shut down their websites”

The key to an enticing elevator pitch is borrowing the same method we use to introduce our friends. By creating a succinct 1-sentence teaser, you are able to quickly communicate the unique qualities of your startup through an enticing hook. This hook should give listeners an easy pathway to ask more questions and dig more into your business and what you do. The hook can be a strange fact they've never heard before, an uncommon skill or job, or reference a major press writeup you can tell them about. 

Whether you have a 1-sentence teaser already, or have yet to create one, analyze your teaser and see what can be improved to really draw people in. (Bonus tip: if you are quick on your feet, edit your teaser according to what you know will interest the person you're talking to.)

After Your 1-Liner, Take A Break

After giving your 1-sentence teaser, take a break. Oddly enough, this period of waiting (not pitching!) and gauging the person's reaction/interest is the most important step of creating an enticing pitch. 

The importance of taking the time to understand a person’s level of interest is so that you can customize your pitch to their area of interest. This individual will reveal their area of interest based on the next question they ask you. You don’t have to, and shouldn’t have to, expend your energy talking deeply about your startup with someone if they’re not interested. 

If the person doesn’t seem interested, move on. Depending on what your intention is, either socialize about a different topic, or politely excuse yourself to connect with someone else. If someone's not interested in your startup within the first few minutes, do you want to spend the extra time and energy to convince them? 

There are customers out there that will love what you do within the first few minutes of you speaking with them. Focus on saving your energy on finding and connecting with those people. In the long term, the person who loves what you do will interact, and spend more money on your startup than several uninterested leads combined. 
This simple approach of gauging one's reaction from your 1-sentence teaser allows you to avoid all those long conversations we often find ourselves in at networking events, where you’re talking about a whole lot of nothing for the sake of being polite.  This 1-sentence teaser, and a quick few seconds to gauge the person's reaction gives you the opportunity to leave, or talk about something else. 

Dive Deep

If the person you're speaking to seems semi-interested or enthusiastic about what you’re doing, continue with follow-up questions to discover what their particular interest is in the work that you do. 

Has this person ever travelled to the country your startup is based out of?
Do they love the impact you're creating with your business? 
Are they fascinated by startup culture? 
Are they interested in transitioning into your field? 
Do they love how your products look? 

As you can see, the connection can be anything from their passions, hobbies, intellectual interests, next career move, or their aesthetic preferences. It can be everything and anything. Follow this lead and dive deep. 

Learn more about the how and why of their interests and learn as much as you can about this person. While you're doing this, slowly start brainstorming ways that you can get them involved in your startup. 

Can their awesome PR skills help you get auction items for an upcoming fundraiser?
Would they love using your product, and you want to send them a link for them to check out your website? 
Can you meet them for coffee to discuss one aspect of their interests further? 

Whatever it is, think of an action step or a way to stay connected with this person. Do not leave the conversation without finding a way to stay connected.

Think of this approach as peeling back layers of an onion -- talk about your startup in layers, and gain permission from the person you're speaking with to dive deep into what you do. This method enables you to give your time and energy to pitching your startup with the intensity and passion it deserves to the people who want to hear it. 


Sophia Sunwoo