3 Reasons Why Your Elevator Pitch Will Never Work

The elevator pitch is a way to present our work in such a concise way that it could be shared within the span of an elevator ride. Neil Gordon shares three critical reasons why most elevator pitches don’t work. The post 3 Reasons Why Your Elevator Pitch Will Never Work appeared first on Young Upstarts.

3 Reasons Why Your Elevator Pitch Will Never Work

by Neil Gordon

The first time I ever went to a Chamber of Commerce meeting was also the last time I went to one.

It was a fiasco.

We started the meeting going around the table and were each given two minutes to share what we did – our elevator pitch, a way to present our work in such a concise way that it could be shared within the span of an elevator ride.

In theory, by sharing what we did in this way, everyone else would be so bowled over by the possibilities of working with us that the $40 we spent to have breakfast would be worth it.

But when I shared what I did, people smiled and then the next person spoke. And then the next person, and so on.

Eventually, there was more casual mingling, and several people came up to me who seemed REALLY excited to talk to me and hear more about what I did.

The problem was once they heard more about what I did, they immediately wanted to be anywhere else in the room as soon as possible.

The event continued like that for several hours, and the only thing that ever came of having gone was about a dozen follow-up calls from the chamber inviting me back.

Of course, we all know that going to an event like that is not meant to be about getting instant referrals as much as it is about growing one’s role in a community. But still, the fact that no one even wanted to ask me about my work left me feeling pretty low.

What I did for a living didn’t feel like it mattered to anyone.

And perhaps you can relate to that feeling as well.

In the intervening years, I’ve come to realize that there were three critical reasons why my elevator pitch landed like a dud, and why most elevator pitches don’t work. I’ve shared these reasons below.

Reason #1: We fail to provide context.

If we’re an entrepreneur, we have a fantastic new idea that we’re bringing to the marketplace, and it has a marvelous unique selling proposition, it’s easy to think that other people are going to have the same level of enthusiasm for it right off the bat.

But remember, they’ve had a different life experience than us. They’ve faced different problems than we have, and have struggled in their own way. As such, they don’t necessarily know that our solution is even necessary – let alone unique.

People are most likely to embrace a solution when it’s provided within the context of a problem they care about solving. By starting not with our solution but a problem they want to solve, we have an opportunity to get them instantly invested in hearing what we have to say.

Reason #2: We overwhelm our listener with information.

As an expert in what we do, we have amassed all sorts of information. We see the world through the lens of our own knowledge and insight. But when people ask us what we do, they don’t yet have that perspective themselves.

When they ask us about our world and our response is to launch into the facts, figures, statistics, jargon, and technical processes with which we’ve become so intimately familiar, they’re suddenly buried with new stuff to sift through in their minds and they are more than likely to check out.

People are empowered not by the amount of knowledge we share but the belief that change is possible. By instead providing something that plants the seed of possibility in their minds, they’ll want to go deeper.

Reason #3: We make our elevator pitch about ourselves.

If someone asks us what we do, it probably seems like it would be both natural and appropriate to tell them about what we do. We’re just providing a response to the exact question that has been asked of us, right?

But people who ask that question more than likely have goals of their own: to get referrals, to find customers, to get funding, to discover a project that they can fund, or, in a personal context, to simply get through a conversation with a stranger without too much awkwardness. They might listen politely to our response, but in the back of their mind they’re probably just waiting for you to stop talking so that they can have a go at their own answer to the question.

Effective communication values the recipient over the sender. This means to instead make your response about planting an empowering idea in your listener’s mind that actually gets them excited the way they might be at a rally or a conference.

It means that an effective elevator pitch isn’t really a pitch at all – but rather an elevator speech.

How to craft an elevator speech (and not an elevator pitch).

While empowering another person in a short amount of time can take shape in many forms, below is a simple four-part formula:

Identify the problem: Begin with the problem your audience cares about solving, so as to provide context.

Provide typical solutions: Offer an example or two of what conventional wisdom teaches us to do, so as to agitate the listener’s desire to see this problem solved.

State your silver bullet: State a one-sentence recipe for why your solution is as effective as it is so as to spark an ah-ha moment (special note: my explanations for reasons #1, 2, and 3 all have silver bullets – can you find them?).

Describe your solution: This is what most people start with, but with points 1-3 as context your listener will be primed and ready for what you do.

The silver bullet in #3, because of the way it’s created, prompts an ah-ha moment. Think of famous silver bullets throughout history, such as Sun Tzu’s quote “All of warfare is deception” and Aristotle’s quote “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” Because of the way these statements are crafted, the listener is suddenly empowered by what is being said. This also means that an elevator speech can take only 20 or 30 seconds to say but that ah-ha moment will prompt so much possibility for our listener that they will suddenly trust us.

Then, they’ll want to go deeper.

This is what happened when I was at a happy hour last year. I was with a group of people the night before a conference, and one woman asked me what I do while we were all talking together. I began my elevator speech, and when I got to my silver bullet they got so excited that they all talked for several minutes about it.

And yet I had only been speaking for 15 seconds by that point.

This is the importance and potential of looking at our communication as an opportunity to empower others. When we prompt someone to have an ah-ha moment in only a handful of seconds, they’ll say the three most important words they can possibly say in response:

“Tell me more.”


Neil Gordon is a communications expert focused on helping his clients attract a following using as compelling of a message as possible. His style has been described as “persuasion with heart” and he has helped his clients double their speaking fees and secure appearances on TV shows like Ellen and Dr. Oz.  Neil formerly worked as an editor at Penguin Random House with New York Times bestselling authors and has been featured on NBC, Forbes, Fortune, Inc and he is a contributor for Entrepreneur.

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Bank of England considering negative interest rates

Negative interest rates are being considered by the Bank of England to expand its policy toolkit and stave off lasting damage from the coronavirus recession, the governor has said. Read more: Bank of England considering negative interest rates

Bank of England considering negative interest rates

Negative interest rates are being considered by the Bank of England to expand its policy toolkit and stave off lasting damage from the coronavirus recession, the governor has said.

Andrew Bailey (pictured) stressed that there was no immediate plan to cut rates below zero but confirmation that he wants the option reflects the severity of the crisis. Negative rates would in theory mean banks charging people on their savings to encourage them to spend.

Rates are currently 0.1 per cent, which is considered the lowest they can go. In place of rate cuts, the Bank has been using quantitative easing and forward guidance to stimulate the economy. It is now reviewing a tool that Mr Bailey has previously described as implausible.

“We are doing the assessment of the case for bringing them in as a tool. Not necessarily to use but to put them in the tool box. It is not part of the current decision set,” the governor said in a call with the media after today’s policy decision.

“We are assessing the case for negative rates in this country. We haven’t ruled anything out. It is not a decision that is in any sense imminent. It is work we need to do. We are having to take that evidence [from overseas] and assess the pros and cons of it.

“Were we to decide that it should be in the decision there would be important questions about implementation and about communication.”

Other countries have used negative rates. Denmark has had them for eight years and some of the country’s banks have even experimented with negative-rate mortgages, which pay the borrower.

Small savers have tended not to be affected but banks have imposed monthly charges on corporate deposits and wealthy private client savings.

The Bank decided in 2009 that rates could not go below 0.5 per cent because doing so would backfire and drive up borrowing costs by squeezing bank and building society interest margins.

Lenders make money on deposits, by paying a lower rate than the central bank rate, as well as on loans. If they start losing money on their deposit books, the risk is they increase lending rates to make up the difference.

Negative rates also encourage savers to take their money in cash and put it in a safe. Policy innovations, including a central bank scheme that provides commercial lenders with cheap funding, have since meant that the minimum rate is now thought to be 0.1 per cent.

Even so, as recently as March, Mr Bailey said negative rates were not an option. “I should make clear that as things stand, I do not regard negative official interest rates as a plausible tool,” he told MPs. “Negative rates create the prospect of substitution into cash.”

The minutes to today’s meeting showed that some members of the nine-strong monetary policy committee want the Bank to be ready to act if there is a second spike in infections or if behaviour does not change despite lockdown.

“In an environment of heightened uncertainty, some members in this group also envisaged a role for monetary policy in seeking to mitigate the potential impact of more adverse economic scenarios, including those in which there were higher rates of Covid-19 infection going forward,” the minutes said.

Mr Bailey said: “Some members put more emphasis on [these concerns] and thought monetary policy could counteract that.”

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Bank of England considering negative interest rates

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