THIS is How You Master Your Elevator Pitch
My attention span is really short. Shorter than the average goldfish, according to recent data. And there are a few billion people, products, and things vying for it virtually 24/7.
So if you want me to notice you, talk to you, buy from, invest in, work for, partner with, support, date, or hire you —you’ve got about 10 seconds to capture my attention, before something else steals it away.
Are you up for that challenge?
If not, don’t worry. I’m about to lend you a hand.
HOW TO MARTAFY YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH
A great elevator pitch isn’t just for elevators. It’s the tasty bit of bait you’ll use over and over to spark curiosity, start a conversation, and capture the attention of a potential customer, employer, partner, donor, etcetera.
You probably already have one — but if it’s not yielding new connections and opportunities, then it could probably use a little Martafy-ing.
So take a moment and tell me your elevator pitch. Pretend I just introduced myself and asked you that all-too-often-asked question, “And what do you do?”
Say it out loud or write it down on paper.
And then, answer these four questions honestly:
Did you use any jargon or acronyms that might not be familiar to me or the average Jane?
Were you specific about whom it is you help and how what result you’re able to achieve for them (or what challenge you’re able to help them overcome)?
Did you sprinkle in any hyperbolic, overused bullshit like “innovative,” “cutting-edge,” “unique,” or “proprietary”?
Were you as succinct as possible, such that I’d be able to repeat your elevator pitch right back to you (or someone else) — without much effort?
If you answered NO to even one of those questions, you can do better. And you damn well should, if you want to make even a small dent in the universe.
So, here’s how to Martafy that puppy:
TIP #1: CONNECT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE
When someone asks what YOU do, most people respond accordingly—meaning, their answer is about “ME.”
The truth is that we’re all more or less the center of our own universes, so when I ask what YOU do, what I’m really asking is, “What do you do that I care about?” or “How can you help ME?”
Don’t take this bit of brutal honesty personally (though, as noted above, you probably will — it’s human nature). It’s not that I don’t give a shit about you, it’s just that I already have so many things to give a shit about, so capturing my interest and attention will require you to make your answer at least mildly relevant to MY life, and ideally, pertinent to the specific needs or desires I have or the problems I want to solve.
A good way to connect with your audience and address this little quirk of human nature is to start with a question. For example, if we were at a cocktail party and you asked me what I do, I might lead with this:
“You know how every business on earth is ‘creating content’ like video, email, instagram stories, etc. to attract potential customers? I help them make that content remarkable, so that it stands out, gets shared, and makes people go, ‘Damn, that’s a brand I would buy from!’”
Asking a question isn’t a requirement, but I recommend at least trying it. It prompts the other person to listen a bit more actively. It offers context, and gives them a way to identify someone or something in their own life that could use a bit of your secret sauce.
It also forces you to think about them, opening the door to a deeper conversation.
And even if whatever it is you do has no immediate relevance to the other person’s present needs, you’ll still be planting a seed that may bear fruit later — because they’ll actually understand and remember what you said, instead of filing it under “Who Cares,” where most people’s elevator pitches go to die.
TIP #2: BE CLEAR & SINCERE.
I have zero tolerance for bullshit. And nothing turns me off more than verbal diarrhea, especially if it’s rife with acronyms, jargon, and/or hyperbole. These are the fastest, most effective way to bore your audience and lose their interest.
Confucius said it best:
“A confused mind says no.”
Clarity and sincerity are not only rare, but utterly priceless.
Clarity ensures that people understand what you’re saying; that they don’t have to decipher acronyms or look up industry jargon in the dictionary. It’s about saying what you mean.
Sincerity, then, is about meaning what you say. It’s the simple act of sharing what you genuinely love about what you do and the real benefit or result you can offer to others.
And I know this sounds so simple that it’s blatantly obvious, but you’d be surprised by how few people actually take this approach. (Or maybe you wouldn’t.)
My favorite “bullshit test” is try my elevator pitch out on someone who knows absolutely nothing about my industry, background, competition, etcetera. A middle schooler is a perfect candidate for this (if you can tear them away from their smartphone for a minute or two). Or someone who was born decades before “Google” became a verb in the English dictionary.
If they get it—and better yet, get excited about (or at least interested in) it, then you’re on the right track.
TIP #3: TALK LESS. LISTEN MORE.
If you’ve nailed the first two tips (and yes, I put them in order of importance), then this one will be the “cherry on top” of your Elevator Pitch Sundae.
Because once you’ve answered the “What do you do?” question, become curious about the person who asked. Listen—really listen—to what they say or ask. CARE about them.
Most people can feel the difference between an interaction with someone who genuinely gives a shit about them and someone who just pretends to. Even if they can’t put their finger on it at the time, people naturally gravitate toward and remember people who genuinely listen and care.
I’m not suggesting that you tear down healthy boundaries or care so much about others that you neglect yourself. Let’s not get crazy.
I’m just pointing out that most people err on the side of “I-am-the-center-of-my-own-universe”—which is a common and therefore unremarkable quality. Martafy-ing your elevator pitch means making it remarkable—and genuine interest, empathy, and curiosity are diamonds in a sea of coal.
So go ahead and connect with your audience; give a clear and sincere elevator pitch—then shut your mouth and open your heart.