The Five-Floor Elevator Pitch

Posted by Rob on June 13th, 2012 at 2:17pm

I recently attended a San Diego SCORE Workshop to get some exposure to an business area of which I had very little familiarity. At the start of the workshop, the instructor asked those in attendance to stand, introduce themselves, and describe their current or future business. While the instructor had intended for this ice-breaker to take only 10-15 minutes, the exercise lasted almost an hour as each of the 35 workshop attendees struggled to efficiently describe his or her business in a concise and understandable form. It was extremely painful, and I realized that many good business ideas are lost within an individual's inability to concisely explain that idea.

Many entrepreneurs lose touch with the obvious - you should be able to communicate a business idea during the time spent to ride an elevator! And this isn't an 80-floor elevator ride either; entrepreneurs should be able to deliver their pitch in the time it takes to travel five floors. This equates roughly to one sentence. If an entrepreneur cannot do so, the entrepreneur should continue revising the pitch until the business idea can be described and understood in one sentence.

Let's take a look at my elevator pitch for is a service that allows students to find and schedule any type of lesson with a local instructor.

Did you understand the business of Based on the thousands of times my co-founders and I have said this sentence, most people understand the pitch. At the same time, the pitch begs for more. This is a good thing! We want the receiver of the pitch to get off the elevator after five floors and ask "How?" If you succeed in this, your pitch has been successful.

Steven Gal, a serial entrepreneur and professor at the Johnson School of Business and Rady School of Management, is very astute at elevator pitches. His mentorship in this regard has been invaluable.

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