Death to the Elevator Pitch

elevatorAt face value, the Elevator Pitch is the idea that you should be able to describe your book, movie or project very succinctly and articulately in a very short period of time. Say two minutes.

For most of us, the idea of spitting out a bunch of information in two minutes flat sounds like a nightmare.

But if you (rightly) think giving an elevator pitch is a nightmare, imagine yourself on the receiving end of one. Of asking someone what they are doing and having them robotically spit out a bunch of words like ticker tape that sounds like:

Xoxoxozooaeoiaufdlkad;iuaerlkaefluaereaouaerneaohahoarieand uaerlkaefluaereaouaerneaohahoarieand xoxoxozooaeoiauf aroieuao87!! 

…for two minutes that last an eternity while our eyes glaze over.

THAT is a nightmare.

According to Forbes Magazine – Most of us spend 70 to 80% of our time talking about ourselves and not our client’s results. This is a classic mistake but a trap that’s hard to resist.

We’ve all been there, right, to a bar or gathering at which somebody talks AT us not WITH us? We’ve all had that irritating experience when we furtively look around, over, past the person praying it will end soon.

An elevator pitch is an opportunity communicate with someone and to communicate effectively takes TWO.  When I teach writers and entrepreneurs how to pitch their script, book or idea, I teach them mainly how to LISTEN and how to CONVERSE.

Pitching does not mean you take a huge breath and speak until ALL the information is out.  It means to have a conversation about you, what you are doing, and why it will be great for your listener. Great as an investment, great as a story, great as a project.

Jumping in too quickly mitigates actual communication and becomes, instead, a one-way street. Your listener might have a question or comment. They might, you know, also be a human and want a coffee, or have a headache.

A conversation is a dance between two people. Whoever called the meeting (or presumably stepped into the elevator) gets to lead the dance. How would you like it if somebody pitched something to you totally uninvited? Taking advantage of a situation with no polite discourse or invitation does not make a very good impression of you.

So what DO you do?

Practice your Elevator Pitch thusly:

1) Define what you are doing. What’s your log line, so to speak? What is the quick one line description of your project?


I’m writing a psychological thriller set in the near future about sleep being illegal so that productivity will remain high.


I’m developing a wearable technology that allows clumsy people to suddenly become graceful and beautiful at the touch of a button (just putting it out there guys, just putting it out there…!)

2) Be ready to answer the next likely questions like: How does it work? or So what happens? or Is it done?

Now you just got a green light to explain a bit more – again – succinctly.

Well, our hero sells sleep on the black-market so that people can rest but he gets caught and he has to escape and overthrow the Sleep Police! 


You wear it on your thigh and when you start up the application, jolts of electricity flow to your limbs and you start dancing like Martha Graham! 

The idea of an elevator pitch, is to get someone interested in actually learning or reading MORE about your story or project, right?  To get their attention and their curiosity.

So you don’t need to explain the WHOLE thing, just what it is and how it works or how it complicates (in the case of story).

An Elevator Pitch is important but misconstrued. Don’t ever corner someone and speak for two or three minutes without end about your project.

Go from social skill green light to social skill green light – just as you would in normal, polite conversation. Ask questions. Invite questions. Leave room for small talk. Slow down.

This isn’t the only opportunity in the world but it will be your last with this person if you don’t handle yourself with grace and employ the long lost art, in this go-go, hurry-up, instant gratification world, of conversation.  Even a quick one.

Read more about the art of conversation in this fantastic article in the Atlantic. 







2 thoughts on “Death to the Elevator Pitch

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