4 ways you should never give an elevator pitch

Elevator pitches aren’t easy. Few people like the challenge of having to sell themselves in less than a minute, and virtually no one on the planet likes being sold to. Be it a product or service you’re peddling, figuring out a way to make yourself a salable individual via an elevator pitch is no small feat.

Given how few people are comfortable with elevator pitching, it’s no surprise that many don’t know how to do it—and there are a lot of mistakes to be made. Here are the four ways you should never give an elevator pitch, as well as useful strategies for how you should.

Ways you should never give an elevator pitch #1: Overstuffing

Rule number one of elevator pitching is keeping things calm and collected, and that means not racing against the clock to cram as much stuff into your elevator-ride-sized spiel as possible. Don’t:

Overcomplicate what it is you do or sell
Discuss irrelevant details

As is the nature of an elevator pitch, you have a few seconds at best to describe what makes you, your service, or your commodities worth the time of the person you’re talking to. This means you need to keep calm and stratify your message into as few easily digestible words as possible, even if it means you run the risk of oversimplifying.

Ways you should never give an elevator pitch #2: Pushing too hard

Persistence is great, but not if you don’t know when to cool it. Certain folks won’t want to be elevator pitched anywhere, including in elevators, and by doing so, you’ll alienate them forever. So read the signs and don’t give an elevator pitch to someone who:

Ways you should never give an elevator pitch #3: Forgetting to optimize

Let’s say you want to pitch a high-ranking fellow at a tech company you’re interested in, and you fortuitously happen to be stuck in an elevator with the person. You have a bit of tech background yourself, though only the less flashy bits of your career would be relevant in the conversation. Don’t:

  • Feel compelled to say your best achievements if they’re not pertinent
  • Forget to use relevant details to target specific individuals and build rapport

Even if you went to Harvard and are proud as heck of it, if the person you’re pitching went to NYU and so did you for a short stint, that’s a better angle to approach from because it opens up room for an organic connection.

Ways you should never give an elevator pitch #4: NPersonot utilizing the pitch

If all of this sounds horribly forced and awkward, that’s because it often can be. Organic elevator pitching is a skill crafted over a lifetime, and it’s rare to see anyone good at it. Even so, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to hone your craft!

Elevator pitches are useful to anyone and everyone. Even if you’re not trying to sell a specific product or service at the moment, you should always be networking and trying to sell yourself as an individual worth staying in touch with.

Be it in dating, professional settings, or social gatherings, elevator pitching is an invaluable tool for establishing new connections. You never know what these bonds could lead to! Never give an elevator pitch the wrong way by not giving one at all.

  • Don’t expect the other person to make the first move
  • Let introversion stop you from making a connection

How to give an elevator pitch

With these tips on how you should never give an elevator pitch, you might be wondering how you should go about pitching. According to a study conducted by Microsoft, the average human attention span as of 2013 is eight seconds. And if you think this only applies to our ability to read emails or look at one browser tab at a time, think again: this eight-second metric applies most immediately to our ability to remain focused on fellow humans.

Take the above study with a large grain of salt, but even its critics recognize its findings may be representative of a larger issue. Even if we have attention spans longer than those of goldfishes (contrary to Microsoft’s claim), they’re probably not longer by much, at this point.

This means you have a couple of blinks to enrapture someone or they’re gone. Here’s how to snag your elevator pitch target before it’s too late.

1. Read the environment

Whether you’re doing your elevator pitch in person or in a different format such as an email, remember that you need to know how to approach your target. Are they laid back, or super formal and professional? Segue into your pitch with these questions in mind. Use the right language and attitude to convey your message.

2. Subtly is paramount

No one likes being sold to, so don’t sell. Just casually share information about yourself in an attractive enough way that the other person might want to buy something from you (e.g. your service, product, or time) entirely of their own volition.

3. Charisma is king

The best sellers ooze charisma and make themselves desirable through well-spoken, carefully delivered words. You, too, can have this sort of charisma if you monitor your speech and make sure you deliver your elevator pitch properly. Use these speaking tips to up your game:

  • Talk at a good clip—not too slow or fast. Practice your pitch to get the timing down.
  • Avoid stammering or inserting nervous fillers such as “uh” and “um.”
  • Inflections matter! No one likes a monotone drone, so remember that if your voice doesn’t sound enthusiastic about your pitch, neither will the other person’s when they respond to your bad attempt at selling yourself.

Elevator pitching, in summary

There you have it: the key ingredients for how to nail your sale, as well as four ways you should never give an elevator pitch. You now know the major do’s and don’ts, so all that’s left is to practice, practice, practice. Turn on the extrovert gears and you’ll be pitching your way into pool parties, coffee dates, and job interviews in no time.