An elevator speech is a 30- to 60-second answer to the question, “So, what do you do?” It’s a quick summary of your business and its value proposition. A great elevator speech will spark interest in your business and hopefully lead to a deeper conversation.
Elevator speeches are a great opportunity for entrepreneurs. Whether you’re at a party, at a networking event for startups, giving a quick overview to a potential investor, or just meeting new people, a solid elevator speech is your chance to introduce your company to potential customers, investors, and referrals. After all, you never know if you’re talking to that one person who might be able to help take your company to the next level.
What’s the difference between an elevator pitch and an elevator speech?
An elevator speech and an elevator pitch are very similar, but a pitch is frequently delivered to investors in a more formal setting and it’s likely that you’ll have a presentation slide deck (also called a pitch deck) to help you out.
A pitch can also be delivered over email or even as a stand-alone slide deck that investors can view on their own time. You can learn more about elevator pitches by reading our guide and get started on a pitch deck with our free presentation templates.
An elevator speech is always delivered verbally—it is aafter all. You can use your speech in a variety of situations, but it’s often more suited to social situations or during a very early introductory meeting where you have less time and just need to give an off-the-cuff description of what you do.
The name really describes what it’s all about:
What to include in your elevator speech
Elevator speeches are tricky because you have to communicate a lot of information in a short amount of time. And, no, speaking faster does not solve this problem! Instead, you need to craft an interesting and compelling narrative that leaves your audience asking to learn more about your business.
Here’s a quick overview of what your speech should cover.
The problem your company solves
Your target market
All successful companies target specific types of customers. While it’s tempting to say that your products and services are for “everyone,” you’re much more likely to be successful if you are trying to market to a specific set of potential customers.
For example, it would be easy to say that a new hair salon is for anyone that needs a haircut. But, that salon will have a much better time marketing and attracting potential customers if it knows what kinds of customers it would like to serve.
This is probably the easiest part of any pitch—describing what your company actually makes or sells. Your solution needs to solve the problem you’ve described and be the right choice for your target customer.
The value you offer
The value that you provide to your target market is the glue that makes your solution right for your customer. It’s the reason why your customer is going to want your product or service.
Your traction and progress so far
Anyone who wants to learn more about your company is going to want to know what you’ve done so far. Do you already have customers? Are you still in the early stages of development? Maybe you’ve recently received an award that’s worth talking about.
A great idea is nothing without the right people to turn it into a business. Your elevator speech needs to explain why you (and your team) are the right people to build the business.
If you’re talking to a potential investor or someone who might know investors, mentioning a fundraising goal can be a good idea. Even if you’re not looking to raise money, you might have other goals such as your first sale, or closing a big account. You never know if the person you are talking to might be able to help you out.
An elevator speech formula
You can structure an elevator speech in many different ways, but there are a few formulas you can use to help you figure out what you want to say. We’ll start by looking at a very short version that you can use to quickly answer the “what do you do?” question, and then look at what you might say if have a little more time on your hands.
The one-sentence formula for an elevator speech:
That looks really short without the blanks filled in, but it should be plenty for a quick introduction once you add the specifics.
Here’s an example from Palo Alto Software so you can get a better sense of what the one-sentence pitch might look like:
The longer version of the elevator speech:
With this formula, you want to entice listeners with a compelling story or set of facts that illuminates the problem that your company is trying to solve. This is a great way to connect with your audience and get them interested in your business from your opening lines. This is your hook that will prime people to want to understand how you’ve solved the problem.
Here’s a quick example for a fictitious technology company:
Elevator speech tips
- Know the goal:
- Practice, but don’t memorize:
- Know your audience:
- Be persuasive:
- Have a takeaway:
Elevator speech examples
Here are a few examples, both short and long, to help you get started with your own elevator speech.
Elevator pitch example #1:
Elevator pitch example #2:
Elevator pitch example #3:
Elevator pitch example #4:
Hopefully this article has inspired you to work on your elevator speech and refine it to a short, information-filled presentation. If you want to test drive yours, feel free to . You can also download a free pitch deck template if you need to make a pitch presentation.
Noah Parsons is the COO of , makers of LivePlan, the award-winning . Follow him on .