How to devise a great elevator pitch

Jun 23, 2022 | Random Rants

I hate running. Running is for successful people who have a fabulous Lorna Jane collection and no wobbly bits. I would rather have a week of cold showers in the middle of winter, or abstain from wine for 48 hours than run. I would rather not sleep for 5 days or trade my car for a Camry than run. I would rather stick pins in my eyes, wear no-name thongs or move back to the UK forever than run. You get my drift right? I’m not a runner…


When people ask me what my business does… I want to run.

Yep. There is something in the world that I hate more than running. I don’t even know what it’s called. Pitching? Presenting? Selling yourself? Whatever it is, I don’t do it well. As a matter of fact, I don’t do it at all. I just smile, get a blank look and reply “Graphic design and stuff?”

It’s not the speaking to strangers part that I have an issue with, ask me about my car and I can literally talk until the sun goes down (it’s a Skyline by the way, totally awesome, very fast, very black), and if you asked me to tell a stranger what your business does I’d be launching into the best sales pitch ever. But when it comes to my business I draw a blank.

Sure, I know what my business does, I do it every day! But do I know what my business does in a 30 second, spur of the moment conversation? Can I tell you in half a minute what my business does, and can I tell you so that you want to know more? So that you ask for my business card or visit my website?

The short answer? No. But I WANT to!

Enter the ‘elevator pitch’

An elevator pitch is a short, precise message about your business. It communicates who you are, what you do and how you can benefit the person or people you’re talking to. It’s typically about 30 seconds, the time it takes travel from the top to bottom floor in an elevator.

So, with that in mind, I went on an internet journey to devise my elevator pitch. And here’s what I found.

Who came up with this idea?

The elevator pitch is widely credited to Michael Caruso and Ilene Rosenzweig. Who are they? Well my first internet search of Michael Caruso took me to the Nissan Motorsport page. Was I excited? Yes. Did I get sidetracked and stay there for endless hours? Yes! But alas, this extremely talented motorsport driver did not have anything to do with the elevator speech, that can be attributed to the other Michael Caruso, ex Vogue editor and current editor in chief of Smithsonian Magazine.  (I also got stuck on the Smithsonian Magazine website for endless hours. Needless to say, this has been a time consuming blog).

Apparently, back in the ‘90s when he was editor of Vanity Fair, Michael was struggling to discuss story ideas with his editor-in-chief who never had time to meet. Caruso then found ways to sum up his pitches in the time it would take for them to ride the elevator, and each night, his then-girlfriend Ilene Rosenzweig would ask him how his “elevator pitches” went. Voila! Popular saying coined.

So what is the intended outcome of an elevator pitch?

The term ‘elevator pitch’ comes from a scenario of a meeting with someone of importance to you in the elevator. If the 30 second conversation inside the elevator is value adding, the conversation will either continue after the elevator ride, or end in an exchange of details.

The part that really grabbed me about this part of my research is the ‘value added’. Sure, you can talk about what you do for 30 seconds, or in my case stutter about what you do for 30 seconds, but it’s the ‘value added’ part that really counts. If the person you’re talking to can see the value in your business for them, you’re well on the way to gaining a new client.

The formula: Give them a problem

This might sound like a strange place to start. Someone has asked you what you do so you present them with a problem? Am I batty? No. Just stick with me here.

The first part of a great elevator pitch is to start with a problem. This identifies why people come to you. For Firefish Creative I’m thinking something like “We have a lot of clients that approach us as their current marketing isn’t working for them. They have a logo, but they’ve never considered how their brand is showing up as a whole across their printed and online media”

Here I’ve created an opening to explain what Firefish Creative does best – we create brands for our clients that are consistent and effectively sell their product or service no matter which channel a potential customer is discovering them through.


The formula: Show them your solution

The next step is to describe the solution, starting with the words “What we do…”.

Here goes: “So, what we do is create a consistent look & feel for our clients across all media, effectively showcasing their business and selling their products and services no matter which channel a potential customer discovers them through”


The formula: Give them proof

Here is where you get to show off how bloody brilliant you are by telling them about how you just did x,y,z last week: “We’ve actually just finished off branding Broadlands Gardens, an over 55’s living community in Green Point. We created a really classy logo design and carried the look and feel across to the website, print material and advertisements. The community is selling like crazy and the client is thrilled!”


The formula: Wrap it up

Once you’ve successfully completed your pitch, you want your client to be able to get in contact with you, so offer them a business card. Or, if  you’re like me and NEVER have a business card handy, (they are always down the bottom of my handbag playing ninja) I recommend throwing your website address in at the end (this one is for you Mr Andrew Moseley – I told you I’d get there!). It’s easier to remember than a phone number, and generally also includes your business name.

“We’ve some great pictures of the project on our website – Here’s my business card (that I managed to find at the bottom of my bag while you were dazzled by my amazing elevator pitch) with our website address on it, and my contact details.

And that’s it. Elevator pitch created, spontaneous conversations nailed, world domination begun.