The Upside

What Do You Do? The Importance of Your 5-Second Pitch

You’ve got a good looking resume. A beautiful business card. Your LinkedIn is on point. You may even have a gorgeous website.

But what do you have in your toolbox for those all-important networking situations? At a business or community event, at a social gathering with people who could open doors to potential clients–can you describe what you do in a compelling way that makes your listener want to hire you, or refer you to a contact of theirs, immediately?

Most people don’t pay enough attention to their verbal elevator pitch that answers the ubiquitous question, “What do you do?”

What is an Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that you use to spark interest in what you do. You can also use them to generate interest in a project, idea, or product – or in yourself. A traditional elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds, which is how it got the name.

But even more important is the 5-second pitch and that first, memorable impression.
It should be interesting, sticky, and succinct. It should explain what makes you – or your organization, product, or idea – valuable.

Whether you’re working full-time or you have your own consultancy, you need to be able to share this in a way that makes your listener think, “Yes, please, I need some of that!”

Your pitch should answer the questions: What do you do? And what can you do for me? What you answer should be ROI-driven. What is the return on investment? If I pay you X, what do I get in return on my dollars? Communicating ROI is what matters most.

How to Build Your Elevator Pitch

1. Identify Your Goal
Start by thinking about your objective.
Do you want to tell potential clients about your organization? Do you have a great new product idea that you want to pitch? Or do you want a simple sentence or two that explains what you do in hopes that it may lead to new opportunities?
2. Explain What You Do…and Avoid Cliches
Start with the “what.” Focus on the problems that you solve and how you help people and organizations.
As you build your pitch, ask yourself: what do you want your audience to remember most about you?
For starters, your pitch should excite you; after all, if you don’t get excited about what you’re saying, neither will your audience. Your listeners may not remember everything you said, but they will likely remember your energy.
Avoid Cliche Phrases
There are certain words you should always avoid. Those words are:
  • Proven
  • Proprietary
  • Innovative
  • Effective
  • Ultimately
  • Strategically
  • Seasoned
  • Demonstrated
  • Goal-Oriented
  • Creative
  • And one of my least favorite words… passionate.
Why? Because those words and phrases are fluff, and frankly mean absolutely nothing. They actually take away from the impact of your pitch.
3. Communicate Your ROI
Your elevator pitch also needs to communicate your ROI – return on investment. In other words, identify what makes you, your organization, or your idea valuable and a good investment.
4. Put It Together
When you’ve completed each section, put it all together. Then, read it aloud and use a stopwatch to time it, so it’s no longer than 5 seconds. Then, cut out any word that doesn’t absolutely need to be there. Remember: every word counts.

Erin Halper

5. Practice
Remember, how you say it is just as important as what you say. If you don’t practice, you may talk too fast, sound odd, or forget key words.
Practice your pitch regularly. The more you practice, the more natural it will feel. You want it to sound smooth, and not like an aggressive salesperson.
Be aware of your body language as you talk, which conveys just as much information to the listener as words do. Practice in front of a mirror or, better yet, in front of friends, family or colleagues until it feels natural.

You’ve Got This

As you get used to your pitch, through practice, it’s 100% ok to change it up – the idea is that your answer to “What do you do?” shouldn’t sound pre-prepared (even though it most certainly is).
I suggest simple A/B testing. Pick two of your favorite elevator pitches and two different upcoming in-person events or parties. Use a different elevator pitch at each event. Which pitch had people asking you questions, wanting to know more? If the answer is “both,” then which pitch led to follow-ups and introductions? That’s the winner.
Once you have this down, you’ll be well-equipped to rock your audience with who you are, what you do, and why they need to hire you or make an introduction to someone who needs your services.

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