Michelle Bowden: How good is your elevator pitch?

Being able to articulate exactly what it is you do, and how you do it, is one of the most important aspects of business. Michelle Bowden wants to help you perfect your elevator pitch, because, by definition, you won’t know when you’ll need to use it next.

You are at a (probably virtual) networking event and it comes time to introduce yourselves. One after the other, the people before you bore the other meeting attendees silly with their dreary descriptions of their work.

Now it’s your turn. You’re either going to captivate them with a fascinating pitch that’s relatable and compels your audience to know more, or, you’re going to bomb with a forgettable, boring, lacklustre response. When someone asks you to explain what you do, how are you going to stand out?

There’s a lot of fuss about elevator pitches. I once attended a seminar on how to craft one and they taught us a nine-step model. Yep. Nine steps!

This is, quite seriously, complete nonsense. It doesn’t have to be that complicated. In fact, it shouldn’t be complicated, or you’ll sound self-obsessed. It is important to get this right though.

Entrepreneurs who don’t have a good elevator pitch may struggle to capture people’s attention, which could result in a potential client missing out on the brilliant product or service you have to offer the world.

Intrapreneurs (those who work inside a business), your elevator pitch can be the difference in meeting the right people to get that next perfect role, or not.

Plus, it’s good discipline to be able to explain what you do quickly. It helps you get to the heart of what you do and why you do it.

What is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is a short, clear, business pitch that can be delivered in the time it takes to catch an elevator from one floor to another.

If you want to make the most of opportunities that come your way, you need to be prepared to give an impressive elevator pitch at any time, especially when attending networking events.

How do you deliver a good elevator pitch?

I’m going to suggest two different styles to you. The first style is very short. I call it the one-line elevator pitch. The other is longer, in case you have just a minute of extra time. It’s called the five-step pitch.

The one-line elevator pitch

The one-line approach involves explaining in just one sentence how you help people. You can start with, “I help people”, then explain how.

Or you can start with your title and then further explain what that means by outlining how you help people. In Australia, it’s easier to do this one. You’re less likely to be thought of as a braggart.

Here are some examples:

“As a strategist, coach and speaker, I bring clarity to complex situations, enabling difficult decisions to be made with confidence.”

“I’m a pitch coach, and I help people to communicate their ideas persuasively, so they hear the word ‘yes’ more often.”

“I’m an accountant with PwC and specialise in corporate tax. I’m working on an interesting project at the moment with Rio Tinto, helping them minimise their tax liability.”

The five-step pitch

The five-step pitch is a simple way to plan out what you’d like to say. Here it is for you:

1. Problem: “Many people find…..”

2. Solution: “Imagine if…..”

3. Target audience: Explain who benefits from your product or service.

4. Proof: List one or more clients who have reaped the rewards of your help.

5. Statement of fact: To ensure the audience is convinced.

For example:

“Have you ever felt like you were banging your head against a brick wall when trying to convince someone to say ‘yes’ to your ideas? Imagine if you knew the formula that successful business presenters use to persuade people. I specialise in helping business people pitch their ideas so people listen, engage and say ‘yes’ more quickly. Last year, I helped two corporate clients win $500 million pitches. The reason we follow formulas is because they work.”

Here’s a slightly longer example:

“Most people fear speaking in public. In fact, you’ve probably heard that people fear public speaking more than death. Imagine if you could learn what awesome public speakers do to manage their nerves, so that you could captivate an audience and never feel fearful when speaking in public again.

“I specialise in helping business people overcome their public speaking fears so they can communicate with confidence, clarity and influence, every time.

“I’ve just helped an amazing girl called Amy. When Amy was only 10 years old, her teacher and classmates booed her during a speech. By the time she contacted me, she was 32 years old and had been terrified of public speaking ever since that moment. She said she’d decided to overcome her fear and had signed up to do a keynote speech at a conference of 120 people. Her brief to me was, “cure me.” No pressure!

“Amy learnt the three phases to a persuasive presentation in business and was told she was the best speaker at the event. She’s cured, forever. Anyone can be a persuasive presenter, it’s just a matter of knowing what to do and then doing it.”

What else should you consider?

1. Speak clearly. Articulation is the clarity of your words. Aim for crisp, clean sounds. Warm up your lips, cheeks, teeth and tongue whenever possible.

2. Don’t become a crazy card person, thrusting your business card at people who don’t want one.

3. Be careful not to sound rehearsed. The key is to rehearse until it doesn’t sound rehearsed any more.

4. Don’t brag. No one likes a braggart.

5. Believe in yourself. You need to believe to your core that you have what this person needs. If you don’t have what this person needs, give a shorter answer and let them talk about themselves instead.

Plan out what you’ll say the next time you find yourself at a networking event, and you’ll be glad you did. Happy presenting. 

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Michelle Bowden

Michelle Bowden is Australia's expert on presenting persuasively in business. She's a best-selling, internationally published author of How to Present: the ultimate guide to presenting your ideas and influencing people using techniques that actually work. For more information visit