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60 seconds to convince somebody else – 5 steps to create an effective elevator pitch

To market a brand-new idea. To focus attention on your skills. To convince a potential employer. Elevator pitch is a method meant to reach these goals most effectively. It was invented by salespeople, who often had only one elevator trip to sell their newest idea to their boss. Elevator pitch means to present a personal matter very concisely in only 60 seconds.

To frame your message in a confident and motivating way is not easy. Because the issue is so important to us, we are tempted to explain our arguments at great length. But this reduces clarity as well as persuasiveness. To formulate and to perfect an elevator pitch is a great help to avoid this trap.

In my work as a coach I have met many people, who have gained from this method in many ways. In my experience a five-step-approach has proved most effective. With only five steps you will be able to formulate and to perfect one or more pitches. You can do this in the course of a 60 to 120 minute coaching conversation. But it is also possible without the support of a coach. What you need is only some time, paper and pens and a sparring partner for rehearsing the pitch.

Step One: Brainstorming!

Write down your issue (i.e. application for position….) in the centre of a big sheet of paper. Now start to think of all possible associations contained in the issue and write them down too. You need to follow only one rule: even when you think of complete sentences, include only single words into your list of associations! This brainstorming process is assisted by some key questions like:

  • What are my competencies?
  • What are the emotions connected to the issue?
  • Why is the topic important to me?
  • Who is also interested in it?
  • What am I curious about?
  • What will be different, once I have reached my goal?
  • …..

Step Two: Tell your story!

Now there are hopefully many ideas written down on the sheet. Get an overview and underline not more than five words, which appear especially important to you NOW.  Take those five words and within five minutes join them together into a coherent stream of arguments. Repeat your story ones. You have just created your first elevator pitch. What audience might best fit to THIS pitch? It might be the case that you have just told a story that is meant to be listened to by friends and family.

Step Three: Find the right words for YOUR audience!

Now answer the question: who would be the target group of your pitch? Keeping this in mind, choose another five words. Some will remain the same, some others may appear new on your list because they are more suitable to this target group. Tell a new story. The result of your brainstorming in step one is a source of an optional amount of pitches with different target groups, whether you apply for a job in a company or in public administration or… 

Step Four: Find YOUR structure!

An elevator pitch has a simple structure. In the literature it is often suggested to follow the AIDA principle:

  • Attention: make other people aware of your offer and attract their attention.
  • Interest: explain why your offer can provide a solution to other people´s needs; inform them.
  • Desire: make other people confident, that your offer will satisfy their needs. Convince them, that they desire your offer.
  • Action: lead others towards taking action and/or purchasing.

 AIDA and other models give some orientation. But it is far more important that your pitch is really YOURS. Have a look at your drafts (Steps two and three): How are they structured? You will probably have explained your motivation (That´s why …is important for me!) and your competencies and skills (This may be my contribution!). Is this structure already valid and convincing? What is missing? The final Call to action is critical for the success of your pitch. Many people shy away from asking direct questions like: “Your company is fascinating. Do you have a job?” Again, find a way to make the Call to Action YOURS. But don´t forget: the person who you talk to should know what you want after the conversation is finished. For both the content of an elevator pitch and for the way it is present, remember – find YOUR structure!

Step Five: Practise!

At this step you will benefit most from cooperation with an experienced coach, who is able to challenge you and to give informed feedback. There are many different ways to practise the pitch and to find out if it has the intended impact. Try out different settings: sitting during a job interview, standing during a coffee break, on the phone…  Rehearsing your pitch with different emotions can also strengthen your persuasive power. What is the effect on you and your audience if you are angry, amused or compassionate,…?

Another option is to test how flexibly you are able to adapt your pitch to different needs. Your partner might start the conversation this way: “We are looking for candidates, who are very decisive and focused.” Do you find the right argument spontaneously? Or how do you react if the conversation starts differently: “We are undergoing massive change. That´s why we need communicative and empathetic leaders.”

If you practise and test your pitch in different ways you will find an authentic way to present it. You will no longer have the feeling that you are simply acting out a routine. You will recognize unnecessary content and find the most striking arguments. You will be able to adapt the pitch to different needs. You will learn how to convince: by taking your time even though there isn´t enough time; or by adapting your verbal and nonverbal communication to the expectations of your conversational partner.

About the author

Ich bin zertifizierter Coach (CPCC), Psychodramatiker und Improtheaterspieler.

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  • Wenn ich spiele, gibt das einen direkten Impuls. Es ist ganz anders als drüber zu reden. Wenn man redet, denkt man nach, aber spürt es im Körper gar nicht. Die szenische Exposition ist viel klarer. Da kommt viel mehr bei rum und man spürt mit allen Sinne, was da passiert.

    David Feldmann
  • Was es mir bringt spielerisch zu arbeiten? Es ist die Leichtigkeit, die dadurch entsteht. Es nimmt die Schwere, es nimmt auch die Angst vor bestimmten Dingen. Es bringt auch Freiheit.

    Simone Bloeß
  • Stefan schafft einen vertrauensvollen Raum, in dem sich die Teilnehmenden völlig frei ausprobieren können. Er hat ein tolles Gespür für die Gruppe und kann spontan darauf reagieren, wie es der Gruppe gerade geht. Er hat zudem das handwerkliche und professionelle Know-how, um mit den einzelnen Übungen die Gruppe immer wieder in neue Experimentierfelder zu führen.“

    Stephan Schill
    Stephan Schill
    Schauspieler und Trainer
  • Bei dieser Herangehensweise, körperlich über Dinge nachzudenken, habe ich gemerkt, dass die Erfahrung sehr lebendig macht und auch sehr lebendig in mir verankert. Ich gehe mit diesem Körpergefühl raus – und das bleibt.“

    Susanne Langer
  • Ich war überrascht, dass ich es geschafft habe, mich selbst herauszufordern. Ich glaube, dass liegt daran, weil Stefan die Übungen gut durchdenkt, didaktisch gut aufbaut und methodisch gut erklärt.

    Tobias Schröder
    Tobias Schröder