Do it in 30: Why Shorter Elevator Pitches Have Staying Power

Sue BerginSue Bergin

How long is your elevator pitch?  If you don’t have it down to 30 seconds, you may want to shut your door, turn off your phone, and whittle away until you can get there.

The elevator pitch is a high-level summary of your services, differentiators and value proposition.  It got its name because it should be delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator, 30 seconds to two minutes.

shutterstock_54057646Recent studies of the brain suggest that you should think of it as an elevator ride to the fourth floor with no stops.  30 seconds tops.

We learn from Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, authors of Words Can Change Your Brain: 12 Conversation Strategies to Build Trust, Resolve Conflicts, and Increase Intimacy, that the brain can only hang on to about four to six chunks of information in a 20-30 second period.

Even if you make fantastic points throughout an engaging five-minute conversation, the prospect will only retain 30 seconds of information.  The brain processes every word as chunk of information.  Waldman uses a very simple statement to illustrate this point:

If I simply say, “I love this apple pie that you made,” we can hang onto that. There is “I” as one chunk, “love,” “apple” and “pie.” Each one of these forms a little picture in your mind, identifies the person, and when you’re saying “you made,” we already have 7 chunks of information.  That’s almost more than that person can grapple with. They have to think about the fact that you love the thing they made, what do you mean by love, your mind might be comparing apple pie to chocolate cake.[1]

When reviewing your elevator pitch, think not only about what you are saying, but how the prospect instinctively processes the information.  Brevity and simplicity help retention.

As a mentor once told me, “Be Brief.  Be Smart.  Be Gone.”

Make sure every word conveys something about you and the benefits enjoyed when working with you.


[1] Click here to read more of Waldman’s interview.

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