What is an Elevator Pitch?
Elevator pitches are sales pitches that are so short, you could deliver them in a short elevator ride of 30 seconds. Every word counts and you have to sell an entire story in only a few sentences.
Elevator pitches vary in length depending on how long you have. When you’re networking and you need to quickly grab the attention of an important connection, you may only have seconds to make a good impression. But when you’re in an interview for a job, where the goal is to learn more about you, you’ll have the luxury of a few minutes.
An elevator pitch, whatever you’re pitching, should be:
The goal is to give your listener a bitesize amount of information that’ll make a great impression and lodge yourself firmly in their memory.
Being skilled at elevator pitches is useful for anyone in and around Product. If you need to pitch a feature to a stakeholder, pitch a whole product to an investor, or pitch yourself in a job interview.
Here we’re going to dive into the two most important (and likely) elevator pitches that you’ll need. 1. Your personal elevator pitch, which can be used as an answer to the dreaded ‘tell me about yourself’ job interview question. 2. Your Product pitch, useful for everything from networking to securing funding.
Your Personal Elevator Pitch
Your personal elevator pitch should sum up the story of you in a short amount of time. No matter how long you’ve lived or how many experiences you’ve had, that can be quite the challenge!
Step 1: Identify your key milestones
These may be different depending on who you’re pitching yourself to. Identify which key milestones in your life/career are the most relevant to your audience. Let’s say you’re a Senior Product Manager, looking to move up a step on the career ladder, and you’re in an interview for a Head of Product position at a new company.
They’ll probably want to know your education level, your previous experience, and any leadership experience you’ve had. They don’t necessarily want to know about the time you worked at Dairy Queen for a summer when you were 18. Your CS degree is probably more relevant to the role. (Though save the Dairy Queen anecdote for when you have more time to spin your story, it’s probably a good one!)
Identifying the most important pieces of information to cover will help keep your pitch as informative as possible.
Step 2: Arrange them into past, present, and future
The key to making your pitch memorable, is to tell your story in a way that’s easy for the human brain to process. And brains love a timeline.
To that end, you should start your elevator pitch by talking about where you’ve been. This could be anything from your educational background, the last company you were working at, or the last company you founded which has recently been acquired. How far back you need to reach depends on the purpose of your pitch and what you hope to gain from it.
“When I got my CS degree from Berkeley, I knew I wanted to work in the tech industry but wasn’t sure in which capacity. So engineering seemed like the natural path. Then I realized that Product Management was my calling and I managed to move laterally to a PM position, and eventually became a Senior Product Manager.”
Then talk about where you are now. This will usually involve your current job or major project. It’s great to include some success metrics if you can. (As you want a position that hinges on great leadership skills, try to fit these into the pitch now!)
“I’m leading two teams, both working on aspects of our new app. In the past year we’ve managed to double adoption rates through rigorous iteration of our onboarding process. We’ve had to adapt to switching to a remote work model, but I invested a lot of time into building our culture, so the transformation has been a positive one overall.”
Finally, talk about the future. Where is it you want to go? What ambitions do you have? Basically, are you looking for the very same thing that your pitch audience wants to provide?
“Now I’m excited to find a new challenge. I’ve seen the opportunities and potential that lie in the EdTech space and I just think it’s a really exciting space to be in at the moment. I’d love to move into more of a people management role, and develop my experience as a mentor for the future generation of Product people at a company.”
Step 3: Rehearse, but don’t be robotic
You may have heard the phrase ‘bring your personality to work’. That’s never more helpful than in this kind of elevator pitch. While telling your story, you need your personality to shine through.
The elevator pitch you prepare should be no more than a list of bullet points. It’s understandable that you may feel the urge to write out a full script, but that’s a dangerous game to play if you’re not an excellent actor.
When you have a full script that you try to memorize like a TED talk, you run the risk of sounding robotic. Everyone in the tech world knows that an elevator pitch is, and everyone knows that you have to practice them. But you still need to sound natural and at ease.
If you’re of a nervous disposition, having a script that you feel pressured to memorize and deliver word for word can actually be detrimental. If, in the moment, you fluff one of your ‘lines’, you can get flustered, and forget everything else you had planned to say.
So don’t be afraid to give your pitch in a way that feels natural and authentic in the moment. Add a few funny quips and embellishments if appropriate. And let your personality shine through. That’s how to make your personal elevator pitch exciting.
You might also be interested in: Storytelling for Product Managers — And Why It Matters
Pitching Your Product
Pitching a product is not so different to pitching yourself. The core skills remain the same, but the focus and structure needs to be different.
1. Start with the problem, not the solution.
This advice, which is great for Product Management, is also great for your product pitch. Start your pitch by framing the problem you’re trying to solve, either by relating it to your audience or by invoking empathy. This helps to set the scene and spark interest in what you’re about to say.
2. Make it personal
Try to talk about who this problem affects or how the solution you’ve built actually improved someone’s life, even if it’s your own.
You should also try to make it personal to your audience. There’s no point in talking about how your solution will flourish in the banking industry when your audience are in the entertainment industry. Try to look at your product from their point of view, and understand what about it could excite them.
3. Bring the data
As with all things in Product, you need to be able to bring the data. Ideally, these will be success metrics. You already improved X by Y%, by implementing your solution customer A was able to double their revenue, etc.
If you don’t have any success metrics to share yet, then use data to validate the need for your solution, and prove that there is a problem. It’ll also show that you’ve done your research, better placing you as someone likely to find product-market fit.
4. Show off your USP
Unless you’re doing something truly earth-shatteringly unique, you probably have competitors. If your audience is experienced in their vertical, then they likely know who these competitors are. You’re in competition before you’ve even opened your mouth to speak!
Combat this by knowing your USP, and delivering it in your pitch. Make sure your audience knows how and why you’re different, and what you bring to the table compared to other players.
5. Avoid cliches, and be specific
The whole point of pitching a product is that you’re trying to launch something new, or something better than what’s already out there. So when you’re asked why you want to launch this product, or add this feature, or start this company, try to be specific. For the love of all that is good, do not fall back on ‘wanting to make the world a better place.’ It’s the king of tech world cliches.
Instead, if you have to talk about why you want to do this thing, be honest and talk about your inspiration, your emotional attachment, and what keeps you going. People don’t just buy into ideas, they buy into people. A great idea born of the wrong motivation is often a non-starter.
6. Engage with rhetorical questions
Make your pitch feel interactive and engage your audience with rhetorical questions. “When was the last time you felt frustrated at a complicated online checkout?” “Don’t you wish flying abroad during a pandemic was less complicated?” “Do you know someone who always seems to be losing their keys? Is that person you?”
It helps your audience to visualize the solution you’re offering as part of their lives.
Top Tips for a Delivering a Successful Elevator Pitch
Now that you’ve prepared a killer elevator pitch, it’s time to deliver! No matter which kind of audience you’re pitching to, or even what you’re pitching, here are some top tips for an equally killer delivery:
- Body language. This may be limited to facial expressions if you’re pitching over Zoom, but body language is everything! Sit or stand up straight, and try to relax your body a little. Keep your hands firmly out of your pockets, but don’t let them dangle lifeless at your side. If you’re a fidgeter when you’re nervous, try curling and uncurling your toes. No one will see through your shoes, so it’s an invisible way to use your nervous energy.
- Mind your speed. An elevator pitch is fast, true. But the whole exercise is pointless if you speak so quickly that no one can understand you! Slowing it down gives you more time to think about your next sentence, makes you more understandable, and also makes you seem much more relaxed.
- Tailor your pitch for your audience. If you see a way to slip some extra information into your pitch based on the conversations you have leading up to it, do it!
- Keep calm. If something throws you off of your groove, like your internet speeds slowing down the Zoom call, or momentarily forgetting what you want to say, stay calm! These things happen, and no one really remembers them. But they will remember you getting flustered! Take a deep breath, and carry on.
- Love what you do, and let it show. Yes, yes, we know what we said about cliches. ‘Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ That’s not true, this is work. Hard work at times! But if you love it, others will see that, and they’ll want a piece of the action too.
Join Us at The Product Career Fair!
There has never been a better time in history to build digital products! The Product Career Fair brings together the most dynamic companies hiring Product Managers alongside the most qualified candidates to create an event like no other.
This time, you’ll be welcomed to join a special portion of the event…Producthon: Elevator Pitch Your Project.
Been working on a new feature, product or side hustle? Sign up and you’ll get a chance to pitch it during one of the live sessions and win $500 towards any Product School certificate!
(The nitty gritty: Each person will be asked to give a 3 minute elevator pitch. The time limit will be firmly enforced. Pitches will be judged based on (1) the creativity of the idea, (2) pitch enthusiasm, and (3) the viability of the idea. Only one (1) winner will be selected in total across all three roundtable times lots. The winner will be announced at 11:55am PST in the same event room.)
What are you waiting for? Grab your ticket now!