The 30 Second Pitch: How To Make The Most of Every Opportunity

By February 17, 2012June 26th, 2015Marketing Insights & Strategy
The 30 Second Pitch: How To Make The Most of Every Opportunity

As a small business owner, there are opportunities waiting  for you every day.

How you handle them means the difference between new business and lost business.  As a marketer, the most common (and avoidable) mistake I see over and over is the inability to quickly and effectively communicate what a company does.

In fact, I saw it just this morning.

A man and woman waiting in line at Starbucks shared small talk and a smile until she asked “What do you do?” His off the cuff explanation was less than impressive and that opportunity, like the woman and her latte, went right out the door. Had he been prepared with a 30 second pitch, that conversation in Starbucks could have  forged a new business relationship. Easily.

The 30 second pitch is an essential marketing tool. Also known as “the elevator pitch,” the idea is to explain who you are and what you do in the short amount of time it takes to ride an elevator from the ground floor to the top floor.

The way we do business today has evolved so while you may never actually use your 30 second pitch in the proverbial “elevator”, there are plenty of places where you will use it; both expected and unexpected places. Every person you meet is a potential client. Whether you’re at a tradeshow, getting a latte or at your daughter’s soccer game,  a business opportunity can present itself anywhere. Be prepared with your 30 second pitch.

The Key Components

The core elements of your 30 second pitch are simple:

  1. The “Who”.  The name of your company. Just the name. Not the tagline. Taglines have their place and it’s not in your 30 second pitch.
  2. The “What”.  What products or services does you company provide? Keep focused. You cannot be all things to all people.
  3. The “What’s in it for me?” or your USP (unique selling proposition). What sets you apart from your competition? For example: Can you help me make more money?  Do you sell a product I need for less cost? Do you solve a specific problem?  Describe yourself in terms of the benefits you provide “me”, your prospective client.

Crafting Your Pitch

Thirty seconds of speaking translates into about 125-150 words. You may be tempted to go over that. Don’t. Research proves that people can form a lasting impression in as little as three seconds, and the average attention span starts to wane after 15-20 seconds. Basically, if you haven’t made your point in 30 seconds (or less) your audience has lost interest and you’ve missed your opportunity.

Craft your pitch by writing down what you want to say and refining it until it answers the questions above. If you remember nothing else, remember this… focusing on the “What’s in it for me” is the difference between making a personal connection with your prospect  and boring them to tears.  Do not write only about you, your products or services. Always make it applicable to your prospects. Speak in terms of why they need YOU over anyone else.

Do not use buzzwords or industry jargon. As tempting as it may be to throw in a few catchphrases, avoid them. Don’t “help anyone help themselves”, allow them to “leverage” anything or offer a “turnkey solution”. And don’t make them think too hard. Be succinct and sincere about your products and services.

Delivering Your Pitch

Once written, don’t just memorize your pitch. An unnatural robotic delivery can sabotage even the best of 30 second pitches. You want it to come to you naturally and sound conversational.

Practice. Even the most seasoned salespeople benefit from practice. Say your 30 second pitch in front of the mirror, in front of your cat, at the breakfast table, on the phone with your mother, in front of the Fed-Ex guy or anyone else who will listen. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be.

Continually improve. As you give your pitch to more and more prospects, you will hear different questions and reactions. Listen to the response and use that feedback to make your pitch stronger. Remember nothing is constant.

Be confident. Visual cues are just as important as the words you are saying. Remember even though your pitch is 30 seconds, people can form their opinion in as little as three seconds. Stand up tall, make eye contact. Your words and body language work together to make your 30 second pitch as effective as possible. When done successfully, you’ll know you made the most of every opportunity.

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Karl Parry says:

    How much success to people get with their elevator pitches? Does it lead to bigger and better things?

    In these 30 second opportunities is there a place for
    visuals? Scribbling on a napkin or (now) iPad – might help people ‘get’ what’s
    in it for them, or at least help explain what you do, but is there time? Or is that for the second meeting?

    • I’ll throw in my 2 cents on that… The point of the “30 seconds” is to come out of the gate strong. Think of every person you meet as a business opportunity. You can fumble it or you can make the most out of it. 

      Does it turn into more? If you meet someone who is your target audience and needs/wants your services, you’ve got a far better shot at it if you can make a good first impression. 

      I don’t think scribbles and diagrams are going to be either brief or helpful. If you need a diagram to explain what you do then you probably haven’t defined it well enough. There’s a place for that later if you’ve got a captive audience and you’re in a pitch meeting. But when you meet someone in line at Starbucks, on your way to the gym, at your favorite bar or restaurant, at a baseball game or the park on a Saturday afternoon, you’re not pitching – you’re opening the door to opportunity by answering one of the most commonly asked questions, “What do you do?” with a strong and compelling statement.

    • Lisa_kemmerer says:

      Hi Karl. Carol Lynn captured the essence below, but yes having a prepared pitch is always worth it because you never know when the opportunity will present itself.  Think of it this way…let your words draw your visual, especially when the opportunity is unexpected. Make those 30 seconds count by making your words memorable and relatable.  Then, if your products/services are a matc, it will warrant a second conversation in which you can bring visuals and leave behinds.  

  • Amy says:

    Thanks for sharing these tips! Even just giving a few minutes’ thought to what my pitch should be while reading this article has given me a good head start.

  • Sylviane Nuccio says:

    Hi Lisa, 

    It’s my first time on this blog, found through a Facebook group I joined recently. This is such a great subject. I couldn’t help but imagine the lost opportunity you mentioned at the beginning of your post. It’s no secret that if we are not prepared we are going to miss on great opportunities such as this. Thank you for the great tips and the reminder.

  • Amber King says:

    Thanks for these tips Lisa. There are times that we only get 30 seconds to deliver that pitch. It is important that we deliver what we want to convey within that time.

    • I agree, Amber, and it’s a tough thing to perfect! I can’t remember how many times I stumbled through an explanation of what I do. It’s worth sitting down to think about it so you’re prepared.

  • Hector Porrata says:

    Very nice Lisa you were to the point, insightful and most of all very helpful. Take care and God Bless!