30 seconds: it sounds like no time at all, right?
But sometimes – and, these days, more than ever – it’s all we have.
Take Michael Caruso, for example. During the 1990s, Caruso was a senior editor at Vanity Fair, and continuously attempted to pitch story ideas to the Editor-in-Chief.
Problem was, he could never pin her down long enough – she was always on the move.
But, rather than giving up, Caruso would identify the few free periods she did have – such as when she took the elevator – to get in front of her.
He’d put together the best, most engaging, liveliest summaries of his stories to get her enthused during the approximately – you guessed it – 30 seconds he had with her.
And so, the idea of the ‘elevator pitch’ was born.
These days, it’s impossible to overestimate how importance this ethos of brief, powerful storytelling can be.
You might not be chasing people around a physical building trying to get 30 seconds of their precious time. But you’re most likely trying to explain what you do to an online audience with a painfully limited attention span, and a million other things to do.
If you’re to be successful, then – in the spirit of Mark Caruso – you need to:
- recognise your audience has limited time and f’s to give
- separate what you’d *like* to tell them from what they really *need* to know
- get the important stuff across powerfully, quickly, concisely – and get them ‘bought in’ to the extent that they understand the broad strokes, and are interested to find out more.
At Wyzowl, we specialise in telling short, powerful stories – it’s what we do best. So in this post we thought we’d share a few simple best practices. We’ll show you how to tell your company’s story in 30 seconds – or maybe even less!
1. Ration your words
When planning what you have to say, it’s always a good idea to know your exact limitations. How many words do you have to work with?
Well, when writing scripts, we always work to the approximate rule that a well-paced professional voiceover artist will read at around 130-150 words per minute. Any faster than this and you’re just going to overwhelm your audience.
Because we write for video – and the voiceover often needs to be broken up, with pauses added for visual transitions to play out – we work to the lower end of this. But if you’re pitching verbally, you’ll likely be ok at the higher end.
Essentially, you’re looking to distil your message into the 65-75 words ‘ballpark’ if you want to stay inside 30 seconds and avoid racing through your story.
You can rehearse this using a tool like Online Stopwatch but remember, you tend to talk fast when you already understand something – speak at a pace that your audience will be able to follow at. This often means consciously reminding yourself to slow down!
2. Separate ‘want’ from ‘need’
We’re all passionate about our businesses, services, products and ideas.
We could each probably talk for hours at a time about all the amazing things we offer and the countless ways in which we make the world a better place.
But it’s important to be selective. If you try to include too much detail, too many features, too much background in your story – you’ll end up rushing, skimming over important details, and the audience understanding of your message will really suffer.
If your business story is a whole book – then your elevator pitch needs to be the blurb: the tiny snippet of info on the back cover that summarises the plot and helps customers decide whether they’re interested or not.
Another good way of thinking of it is that your elevator pitch is like your IMDB synopsis. If you head to the IMDB page of your favourite movie, you’ll see how quickly and concisely you can summarise even complex plots by being measured and calculated with your words – and brutal over what to include.
So, for example…
- Jaws – “When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community, it’s up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down.”
- The Silence of the Lambs – “A young F.B.I. cadet must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims.”
- E.T. – “A troubled child summons the courage to help a friendly alien escape Earth and return to his home world.”
- Forrest Gump – “The presidencies of Kennedy and Johnson, the events of Vietnam, Watergate and other historical events unfold through the perspective of an Alabama man with an IQ of 75, whose only desire is to be reunited with his childhood sweetheart.”
In each of these cases, you’re left with the essence of the movie – and a good idea of whether it’s something you want to find out more about. You don’t need or particularly want to know all the thrills and spills of the whole movie – that’s for later.
Use this model for your elevator pitch. Strip away all the ‘non-essential’ info, and concentrate on what your audience needs to know – to excite them, capture them, and get them on the first step of a journey with your brand.
3. Remember it’s a journey
Following on from the above, literally and figuratively – just because you can’t get everything across in your elevator pitch, doesn’t mean you have to keep it to yourself.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
Use your elevator pitch to introduce the broad strokes: to tell the world what you do, who you help, why you do it.
At the end of your elevator pitch, always make sure to close with a call-to-action. Visit your website, check out another video, download a piece of content, book an appointment to chat further, or pick up the phone and call. It doesn’t matter what the call-to-action is: just remember that the end of your video is like the end of a particular section of road on your customer journey. Make sure to add a signpost to move them onto the next step.
4. Use the ‘Problem – Solution‘ formula
It’s back to the copywriting basics with this powerful, but incredibly effective, strategy for building empathy.
We’ve already established that time is at a premium, and in today’s age of ad-skipping and banner blindness, you can’t waste a second in getting to the most important bit: the ‘why‘?
Why does your product or service exist? What problem or pain point gave rise to its invention?
This is a classic technique from the old days of the infomercial: you can’t demonstrate a steam cleaner without showing an incredibly dirty worktop!
The first few seconds of your elevator pitch are even more effective if you’re able to isolate the problem first. So: “Hey, isn’t it annoying when…” or “You know how it’s really difficult to…”
This then frees you up to offer your own product or service as the solution, leaving plenty of time to talk about why it’s so good.
Check out how this video we created for SquadLocker, begins by drilling right down into the problem the service solves, then introduces their own service as the solution. This whole thing clocks in at just 61 words of dialogue – but leaves you in no doubt whatsoever about what it is, what it does and who it’s for
5. Use storytelling techniques and devices
It might be an overused quote but Seth Godin had it right when he said it’s no longer about the products we make, but the stories we tell.
Any successful business is about a transformation: an A to B. You reach someone in state ‘A’ and, through your product or service, they reach state ‘B.’
What you’re looking to do with an elevator pitch is highlight this as clearly and powerfully as possible.
This is because the best stories are the ones that move us in some way. Emotional resonance is the name of the game. If you can tell someone what you do in 30 seconds – and get them to care – you’ve hit the jackpot.
When crafting your elevator pitch, you need to step beyond the mere nuts and bolts of what your product is and what it does and embrace some element of story. Character, growth – that journey from ‘A’ to ‘B’.
Animated video is a great solution here since it allows you to control every aspect of the story – not just the narrative, but what the scenery looks like, what the characters look like, the music used, the tone and pace of delivery and the overall emotional ‘feel’ of your story.
Time to get to it…
30 seconds isn’t a long time – but believe us when we say it’s enough time to make a huge impact.
There will be opportunities, literally every day, for your business to either ‘win’ or ‘lose’ based on how you treat 30 seconds of your customers’ time.
An effective elevator pitch lets you tell basically any story in 30 seconds, and all it takes is discipline, focus, and an ability to walk in your audience’s shoes.
But remember –
- Aim to address everybody and you’ll risk addressing nobody.
- Aim to include everything and you’ll risk them understanding nothing.
This stuff doesn’t take care of itself: it takes practice, craft, rehearsal and plenty of editing. Use some of the tips in this article and you’ll be on your way.
And if you need some help telling your story? Our expert team of storytellers is just one contact form away!