In this article, you’ll see great examples of elevator pitches you can get inspired by to create yours. But before we get into that, let’s address the elephant in the room:
The whole concept of an elevator pitch is plain awkward. There, I said it.
I mean, how many times have you heard this fantasy elevator pitch scenario?
You enter an elevator, press your button and, OH MY GOD!, you realize you’re riding with Elon Musk, Susan Wojcicki, or Larry Page. Or all three of them. Plus Steve Jobs’ hologram. One of them looks at you and says:
“Hello stranger. So… what do you do?”
You’ve got thirty seconds to deliver your fast-and-furious elevator pitch so that, by the end of the ride, they like you enough to hire you or give you money. Go!
Because of stories like this, the mythical elevator pitch has been laughed at by many business gurus. No wonder. When presented like this, the concept is laughable. And the problem with elevator pitches is right there in the name. Few people enjoy being “pitched.” Even fewer are comfortable “pitching” themselves.
That’s why most “traditional” elevator pitches sound canned and rehearsed. A bit like meaningless ad slogans. The good news is that we've got the elevator pitch fix. And it all comes down to one thing: grabbing the attention of whoever you’re talking to.
Read on to see a breakdown of what a good elevator pitch should include and elevator pitch samples for different scenarios and situations.
In essence, an elevator pitch is the answer you give when someone asks you about what you do. Now, I hate to break this to you but—
When people say “what do you do?,” they don’t actually care. They’re just being polite. The goal of your elevator pitch is to make them care. Make them genuinely want to find out more about you.
Here’s my favorite elevator pitch story:
When Tim David, a Harvard Business Review contributor gets asked the “what do you do” question, he always replies with: “you mean, apart from being an international bodybuilding champion?” (Tim’s five feet ten and a buck thirty five. “When I step on ants, they live,” he says.)
Whoever hears this one-liner usually laughs. Tim laughs, too. And then he starts chatting with them. He calls this bodybuilding joke “an elevator pitch for his elevator pitch.” It’s a head-turner. Suddenly, the person he’s speaking to is interested in him. That changes the whole dynamic.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to come up with a self-deprecating joke to make your elevator pitch work. But you need a twist of some sorts to stand out and grab your audience’s attention.
I’d write this for you if I could, but I can’t. Nobody can. It’s 100% individual. The key aim of an elevator pitch, and I hope you understand it by now, is to grab attention.
Here’s a breakdown of all the elements a good elevator pitch contains:
Again, it doesn’t have to be an ingenious one-liner. A strategy that usually works is presenting a problem the person you’re speaking with understands.
You’ve got their attention. Good. Now, spark curiosity. If they understand the significance of the problem in question, tell them that you have the solution. They’ll be dying to find out more.
Now comes the time to start droning on about yourself. If you’ve nailed the previous steps, at this point, they will really want to know more about you.
Back up your claim to fame by providing tangible results your work or your business can deliver. It’s best to use hard, numerical data. Numbers pop!
A good elevator pitch is all about communication. And it’s never a one-way process. Once you’re done with your “pitch,” ask questions, learn more about them, and find opportunities for a mutually beneficial collaboration. Be human!
Of course, the order of those items will sometimes have to change. In formal situations, you might need to begin with introducing yourself before you jump into the problem-solution part. Sometimes showing off your results won’t be possible (or necessary).
You’ll need to make that judgment call yourself—the worst thing you can do, however, is be robotic and unnatural. An elevator pitch is an element of a conversation. Keep it conversational.
To better understand how that works in practice, have a look at the elevator pitch examples below. In each sample, you’ll see notes on how the key elements of an elevator pitch work together.
Businesses and individuals alike need elevator pitches. I’ve divided this part into two sub-sections:
Startup elevator pitch (high tech)
[attention-grabbing problem] I’m sure you know that in mobile app development, 97% of the market revenue is generated by the most powerful 0.7% of publishers. Why? Simple. Smaller developers don’t have the R&D resources to optimize their in-app purchase funnels. We thought it’s just not fair so [solution] we offer small- to midsize app developers all the backend they need to compete with multi-million dollar giants—[self-introduction] that’s the premise of our business, ABC Company. And it works so well! [results] In the past month, our clients experienced a 250% increase in their IAP revenue. [engaging question] So, tell me, how do you approach scaling your in-app purchase revenue?
This pitch starts with a very clear problem statement. I mean, wow, such glaring discrepancy must mean that there’s a huge opportunity for current underperformers. Then, it immediately jumps into a clearly-explained solution.
It works so well mostly because it grabs attention right from the get go. As a listener, you feel this startup can make a pile of cash if they play their cards right.
Now, here’s an elevator pitch I could launch when asked about what we do at Storydoc.
Entrepreneur elevator pitch (sales and marketing)
[problem] Have you ever received a sales deck so good you were excited to show it to all your colleagues? No? I didn’t think so. Sales decks are usually boring, overly complicated, and hard to digest. Our mission is to change that. [solution] We want to help all businesses transform their static slides into interactive web presentations. [self-introduction] That’s why we created Storydoc. Our decks have that “wow” factor you didn’t think business content could have. And they work! [results] Our clients have seen a twofold increase in demos booked. [engaging question] And what tools do you use for your sales decks?
Again, notice that this pitch doesn’t involve heavy self-promotion. I start by grabbing attention, give a high-level overview of what Storydoc does and try to steer the conversation into discussing my listener’s problems and challenges.
What if you feel your pitch falls flat? What if you identify a problem, say that you solve it, and still, your listener isn’t interested? Then just don’t bother. If the person you’re talking to isn’t willing to learn more about you at this point, they’re just not your right audience. Even if you started with heavy “selling” right off, you’d just waste your time (while being awkward). They wouldn’t pay attention anyways.
Now, let’s see one more example, this time from a company that offers a physical product, not software.
General business elevator pitch (FMCG)
When was the last time you bought fresh, local, sustainably-sourced food? Months or years ago, I thought so. [problem] Access to food from local suppliers is being blocked by multi-million dollar chains. It’s just too difficult to get the best produce so we settle for mass-produced alternatives. [solution] But what if I told you that you can get high-quality food from local farmers delivered weekly to your doorstep? [self-introduction] This is what we do at Local Farmer Ltd. We connect local farmers with customers, letting people enjoy high-quality food at a fraction of the price from “organic” grocery stores. [engaging question] And where do you get your groceries from?
The key here? This pitch refers to the audience’s emotions. Sustainable, local suppliers get outplayed by evil corporations… you and your family find it difficult to buy healthy food. Sounds horrible, someone who solves this problem would be a life-saving hero!
Those kinds of elevator pitches work because they grab attention, we already established that. But—they will only grab attention when delivered in-person. What if someone loves your pitch and wants you to send over a deck? Are you confident that your pitch deck will be as interesting as your elevator pitch?
With Storydoc, you can be. In our tool, you can create interactive web presentations that engage your customers, and help close more deals. See an example of how Storydocs look like compared to static slides or landing pages:
Need to see examples and tips for creating some key documents for your business? See our handy guides to show you the way:
Alright. So you’ve seen how the five-step elevator pitch formula works for businesses and entrepreneurs. What if you need an elevator pitch for personal use? Surprise, surprise, you’ll need the same elements.
Of course, you’ll need to tweak and rearrange them sometimes (let’s face it, during a career fair, it would be ridiculous not to start with an introduction), but the main ingredients remain unchanged.
Starting the list with an elevator pitch for someone with very little professional experience.
College student elevator pitch (career fair)
[introduction] I’m a freelance copywriter and a recent Stanford graduate with a bachelor in Marketing and a minor in English. Weird combination, some say, but I always believed in [problem] sprinkling marketing communications with a bit of poetry. What do I mean? Check out [solution] this Instagram campaign I worked on for the local coffee brewery. Yeah. [results] We actually got nominated for a student Webby award! [an invitation to talk more] I’d love to brainstorm your key social media campaigns over e-coffee, if that’s something you’d find interesting.
See that? This candidate draws attention to her freelance student experience, highlighting her most shiny achievement and wrapping it in a compelling narrative. It sounds so much better than droning on about dean’s lists, scholarships, and GPA.
Job seeker elevator pitch (job interview)
[introduction] I help healthcare organizations reduce inefficiencies and waste so that they can focus on saving people’s lives. Over the course of my career, I’ve found that, on average, [problem] the ROI of any department in the healthcare industry is compromised by as much as 30% only due to poor project management. As a certified PM with 10+ years of experience, I’ve spent most of my career trying to solve that problem. [solution] By introducing Scrum methodology, I was able to save my previous teams [results] up to $300,000 a year. [engaging question] Have you identified the most costly process inefficiencies in your department?
This candidate, in turns, makes her response to the tedious “tell us about yourself” interview question problem-oriented. This way, the hiring decision makers no longer see her as a “candidate.” She becomes a potential asset they cannot afford to miss out on!
Finally, hear out (at least in your head), my elevator pitch I’d use during a conference or a networking event.
Semi-formal elevator pitch (networking event)
What do I do? I save people from bad advice! [problem] I’m sure at some point you got frustrated at how much contradictory information you find online when looking for business tips. It’s because most of those pieces are written with search engines, not readers, in mind. They rank because they crack an algorithm, not because they are reliable. [solution] My goal is to connect people with data-driven, deeply-researched and actually useful business advice. And, as a seasoned content marketer, I also happen to know what to do to make [results] my pieces outperform all other ones. [introduction] I’m Editor-at-chief at Storydoc. [engaging question] What’s the #1 challenge you face in your business communications?
Alright, I won’t be analyzing my own elevator pitch. Hope you enjoyed it and if you ever struggle with your online communications, I’m pretty sure Storydoc can help you!
If there was only one thing I could tell you about an elevator pitch, it would be this:
When someone asks you “What do you do?” they’re just being polite. They don’t care.
But if you follow the elevator pitch formula I showed you in these examples—identify a relatable problem and spark curiosity—the same person who was merely being polite, now really wants to know what you do. Tell them. You no longer have to worry about cramming your business model into a 30-second pitch.
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