When It Comes to Your Elevator Pitch, Less is More
“It’s something we live by when we read but tend to forget as writers: readers assume that everything the writer tells them is there on a strictly need-to-know basis. Our assumption is that if we don’t need to know it, the writer won’t waste precious time telling us about it. We trust that each piece of information, each event, each observation, matters … If it turns out it doesn’t matter, we do one of two things: (1) we lose interest, or (2) we try to invent a consequence or meaning.”
This passage in Lisa Chron's book, "Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence,” perfectly captures the mindset we need to have as storytellers in business.
And that's especially the case when the story you’re about to tell is your elevator pitch—the 10 to 30-second answer to the question “What do you do?”
The idea here is that your pitch should include ONLY the information your audience needs to know to determine the next step they should take with you. No more, no less.
Otherwise, they'll lose interest. Or, they'll have a completely different understanding of your business than you intended.
The challenge is that, as entrepreneurs who are passionate about our businesses, we face the seemingly irresistible temptation to spill out everything at once. After all, we think, the more features and benefits we share, the stronger the case we’ll make for our product, right?
And so, we can’t help ourselves. “We don’t just do X. We also do A, B, C, D, and E!”
But the reality is this: the more we try to cram into our story, the more confusion we’ll create—and the fewer sales we’ll make.
So, how do we decide what our audience needs to know—and what they don’t?
Begin with the End in Mind
Think of Stephen Covey’s “Habit No. 2” from his perennial bestseller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”: “Begin with the end in mind.”
Ask yourself, What one action do I want my audience to take as a result of hearing (or reading) my pitch?
Depending on your objective, that action could be …
- Ask questions to learn more
- Schedule a consultation
- Request more information
- Schedule a demo
- Download the white paper
- Subscribe to newsletter
- Register to attend.
Whatever your objective, the success of your pitch lies in how well it leads the audience to that one action.
When you understand the goal, you can then map out your messaging to lead the audience to act accordingly. If there is anything in the pitch that does not clearly contribute to your goal, take it out.
The Bottom Line
As French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupery put it, "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing to take away.”
The same could be said of the entrepreneurial storyteller. Keep working your pitch until there is “nothing to take away.”
Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a Strategy and Storytelling consultancy that helps entrepreneurs tap into the power of story to grow their business.
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