The 8 Most Important Basics of an Elevator Pitch

UPDATED: October 4, 2015
PUBLISHED: March 20, 2015

The “up” button glows orange as you wait. You can hear its motors moving as you watch the lights descend from floor 10, then 9, then 8… then a loud a clunk when it hits 1. The elevator doors slide open, and you walk inside. And just when you think you’re riding solo to floor 12, someone else jogs up, asking you to hold the door and then to please push 11.

This is your chance. Will you take it?

OK, so it probably doesn’t happen in an elevator most of the time, but it could. Are you prepared to deliver your business pitch whenever the opportunity walks inside?

We asked the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), “What is the most important question I can ask myself when coming up with an elevator pitch for my business?” Use their answers to help you get ready for your big moment:

1. Would this make sense to a distracted 10-year-old?

If you have access to a 10-year-old, they make an excellent target audience for elevator pitches! The reality is that anyone you meet (in an elevator or otherwise) to tell about your startup is going to be distracted, have very little (if any) background and probably be half-focused on something else. Kids replicate this attitude perfectly. Practice simplifying your pitch until a fourth-grader gets it.

—Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

2. Am I trying to say too much?

The goal of an elevator pitch is not to explain your entire business in 15 seconds. The goal is to be concise enough with your vision that the listener is curious and enticed enough to smile and want to continue the conversation. Keep it high-level, hint at your experience, indicate success to-date so they know you’re serious, and most important, leave a little mystery. Not confusion—mystery.

—Dario Meli, Quietly

3. What is my goal or call-to-action?

Regardless of how valuable your business might be to the individual, if you’re not specific with your call-to-action, they might not take anything away from it. Are you looking for them to use your product or service, partner with you, share their biggest challenge or make an introduction? Frame your pitch in a way that’s relevant for both parties.

—Kelsey Recht, VenueBook

4. Will my pitch entice further questions?

The most successful elevator pitches are those that illicit further questions from the listener. Ask yourself what would make you want to know more about your business, and then put yourself in the listener’s shoes—what are their values and what is meaningful to them?

—Rahim Charania, American Fueling Systems

5. Is my first minute engaging enough?

In our experience, we have found that if we are compelling and engaging enough in that first minute of talking, we have given ourselves permission to talk for the next few minutes. Oftentimes, we see and hear those who talk too much without getting anywhere, ultimately losing the audience. Keep it simple, short and to the point.

—Zachary Burkes, Gatekeeper Innovation Inc.

6. Who’s my current audience?

Ask yourself who you’re having the conversation with. The worst pitches are ones that are too wide or too narrow for the group or individual you’re speaking to. Remember that just because you’re giving a pitch to someone doesn’t mean they aren’t people, too. Find something that’s going to make it memorable instead of just blurting out the same thing each time to everyone.

—Lee Salisbury, UnitOneNine

7. What’s the most attractive part of my business?

If you don’t grab the person’s attention in the first few words, then you’ve lost them for good. You need to figure out the most attractive part of your business, because often people clutter their pitches and mix that in between the boring parts. Start with the most attractive part of your business and let them ask questions after that.

—Syed Balkhi, OptinMonster

8. What problem am I solving?

Any successful company gets to where they are by solving a big problem or fulfilling a big need. So the best thing to get across in a pitch is the problem you’re solving. You’ll know you’ve hit on something when you can also explain who you solve it for, how much they are willing and able to pay, how many of them there are and how efficiently you can reach them. But it ALWAYS starts with the problem.

—Gabriella Draney Zielke, Tech Wildcatters

Find out what not to do when pitching entrepreneur and Shark Tank judge Daymond John.


Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.