Looking for an elevator speech template? In this post, I'm going to explain how to create a 30 second commercial (elevator pitch) for yourself. (Or for your company.) This elevator speech can be used to introduce yourself to a new contact, help you get an interview, or help you sell an idea to a decision-maker. This type of presentation is critical when you have to grab a person's attention in a positive way and time is short. In this post, we will cover a brief history of the concept, an elevator speech template, and a few examples.


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History of the Elevator Speech

The term "elevator speech" or "elevator pitch" has been used in the business world for over 40 years. It is hard to pin down who actually coined the phrase. However, Dr. Graham Wilson does an excellent job of crediting Phillip Crosby in his article The History of the Elevator Speech. According to Wilson, the term occurred in the second printing of Crosby's Quality Management book “The Art of Getting Your Own Sweet Way” in 1981. At the time, Quality Management was a big focus in American industry.

In the book, Crosby encourages Quality Managers to create a "pre-prepared speech selling the benefits of their new approach to quality that they could deliver in the elevator if they find themselves unexpectedly in the company of a senior executive for a few floors."

The Difference Between an "Elevator Speech" and an "Elevator Pitch".

By the early 1990's the term had been adopted by sales trainers around the world. In fact, eventually, the term "elevator speech" became synonymous with "elevator pitch." Sales trainers taught that you had to be able to deliver a value proposition quickly. (Meaning you had to convince a prospect that you could benefit them.) Between you and I, the terms mean exactly the same thing. However, many sales people will often bust out what I call the "sales person fangs." They jump all over an unsuspecting listener. When they do this, they try to force a sales pitch that is of no interest to the listener. Obviously, if someone is doing this, the "pitch" will fail.

The purpose of the elevator speech is to get the person hearing the speech to want to hear more. Nothing else. In fact, our elevator speech template will encourage the listener to actually want to hear more. In addition, the listener will often ask you to explain the concept in more detail. (If we deliver it well.) So, if you happen to be in sales, and you are looking for a way to get potential prospects to come to you, the template will work well for you.

The 60-Second Commercial and the 30-Second Commercial

Eventually, the concept of the "Elevator Pitch" was replaced with a "60-Second Commercial." Since Crosby's original concept was one-minute long, sales trainers used the same concept in networking. This concept was simple. When you are at a business card exchange, you want to be able to explain what you do quickly. So, the Elevator Speech became synonymous with a promotional introduction. They just re-named it a 60-second commercial.

I remember going to networking events in the late 1990's and early 2000's. At the time, we were taught to practice a great 60-second commercial. You had to get really good at it. If you did, be able to pitch a random person that you just met and make them want to buy something from you. Of course that was horse hockey. Oh yes, I'm sure, on occasion, someone use this commercial with someone who actually has a specific need. Then, later, the person bought. But, I'd wager that these situations were pretty rare if the person delivering the 60-second commercial was being pushy.

By the way, today, if it takes 60 seconds to explain what you do, you've likely already lost the listener. Recently, the concept has been shortened to a 30-second commercial.

Elevator Speech Template

This elevator speech template will show you how to create a 30-second commercial for yourself or company. One key to making this process work is to be both genuinely interested in the other person. Another key, though is to get the person to pull the information from you. A good analogy for this is fishing. No one ever caught a fish by dunking their head underwater and telling the fish how great they were. First, you have to offer the fish something that the fish wants. Then, you have to wait for the fish to make the next move. Finally, you have to set the hook. The 30-second commercial is very similar. (Except that the listener doesn't end up grilled on a plate at the end. Okay, maybe I could have come up with a better analogy, but you get the point.)

  1. Introduction (If Necessary)

  2. Obviously, step 1 is to introduce yourself if the person you are speaking to is unknown to you. Keep the introduction short. Just your name, your company, and very, very brief description of what you do. For instance, for me, I'd just say, "Hi, I'm Doug Staneart, and I'm a professional speaker at The Leader's Institute ®." Remember that I'm not trying to "pitch" the person or "sell" to the person. If I'm meeting the person for the first time, I really want the person to ask me questions about myself. By starting with an opening like this, I'm leading the person to ask me more.

    For instance, I know that most people have never heard of The Leader's Institute ®. So, by not explaining in detail about what the company does, it leads the person to ask, "So, what does The Leader's Institute ® do?" Also, instead of saying that I'm a teacher or trainer, I say professional speaker. It builds interest. It also makes the speaker want to know more.

    By the way, the best way that I have ever found to do that is to ask questions of the other person. If I want the person to ask me something, I will often ask that same thing about them.

  3. Focus on the Problem that You Solve (Want to Solve) for People.

  4. The big mistake that a lot of people make here is to pull out the salesperson fangs.

    "Well, let me tell you... The Leader's Institute ® is an international training company specializing in leadership, presentation skills, and team building events. We conduct as many as 300 public speaking classes every year. We have also trained over 100 professional speakers. In addition, we have over 30,000 people every year participate in our team building activities. Would you like me to send you some information about some of our public speaking classes or team building events?"

    The person will likely be polite, but quickly try to distance himself/herself from you. Going back to the fishing example, you got a tiny nibble, and then jerked the line.

    Instead, you want to tease the fish a little. Give them another taste of the bait. The best way that I have ever found to do this is to tell the person how you can solve a problem that they can relate to. For instance, in my own case, I might just say something like, "I help people eliminate public speaking fear." Then... I shut up. I wait for the inevitable... "How exactly do you do that?" I have my second nibble. Now, it is time to set the hook.

  5. Tell a Quick Emotional Story

  6. This is where the actual 30-second commercial actually starts. The best commercials are the ones that take you on a journey. They tell you a story. Your 30-second commercial should do the same. So, whatever problem that you have just said that you solve, give a 30-second example of a time you did it.

    For instance, I might say something like...

    Well, let me give you an example. a few weeks ago, Whole Foods had me fly into Miami to coach a team their regional managers. The leader of the team was a very charismatic and energetic speaker. So, the managers who worked under him were a little self-conscious about speaking in front of him. So, basically, I helped them have a series of mini-successes which built up their speaking skills and confidence. By the end of my training with them, they were presenting better than most professional speakers. The boss was so shocked at how well everyone did, that he recommended me to Whole Foods corporate in Austin.

    Of course, if you pick an example that is closely related to the listener, that works better. So, if I'm speaking to a person in the tech industry, I might give an example of training I did for HP or Microsoft. (Yup, I actually did presentation training for the people who created PowerPoint.)

  7. The Subtle Take Away

  8. The subtle take-away is the last stage of the Elevator Speech Template. In sales training, we always teach sales people to "Ask for the close." In presentation training, we encourage speakers to create a "Call to Action." When we are doing an elevator pitch, though, we don't want to seem pushy. We want the "close" to be the listener's idea. So, a subtly take-away can help.

    So, instead of me closing with, "Do you or anyone you know need presentation training?" I'd be more subtle. I might say something like, "I'm guessing that working for [Listener's Company], your team is full of highly skilled presenters. I doubt that they would need the kind of help that I offer, though, huh?"

    The moment that I get the listener to disagree with me... Well, I win.

Examples Using the Elevator Pitch Template

Internal Elevator Pitch to Get Funding for a Project

Let's say your team has found a solution to a software glitch, but you need $10,000 in capital to fund the project.

(Intro) Hey boss, it's Doug from software R&D. (Problem) We have been working on a software glitch that is causing customer service to not be able to pull up customer records. Joe in customer service has determined that we are losing about $5,000/month from it. However, it looks like we have found an easy solution. [Pause and wait for boss to ask, "How?"]

(Quick Emotional Story) Let me give you an example. Last week, we got a call from a customer wanting to cancel his service. The customer service rep was able to save the customer by scheduling a tech to come out first thing the next morning. The tech never showed. The customer was irate. Not only did he cancel, but he had a few choice curse words for the rep. We have no chance of ever getting that customer back.

Our average customer stays with us three years. So, we lost about $150 this month and $4,000 lifetime by losing that single customer. Joe said that we lost $5,000 just this month. So, if just a few of the deals that we lost were like the one that I saw, we might be losing tens of thousands of dollars from this glitch. Turns out, we can purchase a newer, more up to date scheduling app for just $10,000.

(Subtle Take Away) It may take a while to budget the $10,000. So, we can probably get the new scheduling app in use in about 6 months. What do you think?

30-Second Commercial for a Financial Planner

Let's say you are a financial planner at a business card exchange, and you are looking for new clients. Instead of saying, "I'm a financial planner" focus more on the problem that you solve. Then come up with a job title that encompasses that solution. Here is an example.

(Intro) Hi, I'm Doug Staneart, and I'm a retirement specialist for Edward Jones.

[Retirement specialist? What is that?]

Basically, I help people retire young enough so that they can still enjoy their wealth.

[Really, how do you do that?]

Let me give you an example. Back in 2008, I had a family who had been investing with me for about 15 years. The couple was in their mid-forties, and they were just preparing for retirement at 65. Well, I started noticing that there was a lot of uncertainty in the market. So, I suggested that they pull out of all of the funds based on the stock market. After the crash, we reinvested. The almost tripled their nest-egg in about five years. I got a postcard from them in St. Thomas a few weeks ago. They both retired at 55, and they have been enjoying themselves for a few years now.

(Subtle Take-Away) You've been preparing for retirement for decades, so I doubt that story is really exciting you. though.

The Point is Get Them to Come to You

Remember, focus on the problem that your listener wants to solve. Then show them how you can help them solve it. You can't push a rope. However, if you can convince the other person to pull the rope, you will move closer to them.