The theory goes: you should be able to sum up and sell the benefits of your business in the length of a time it takes to ride an elevator, to persuade your listener to buy/invest/want to know more.

While the idea is that you may unexpectedly find yourself in a lift with Richard Branson and should seize the opportunity to pitch your idea for some of his Virgin money, in reality the 60 second pitch is most often used at networking events, where each attendee has to stand up and introduce themselves.

However, it is also useful for you to develop it to give yourself a clear idea of what you think your business is. A minute is not long to distil down the hours of hard work to write a business plan and create a marketing strategy, but once you can do it, you’ll feel much more confident. You can use it to explain your idea to the bank manager, a business mentor and all those people who as “And what do you do?”

At networking meetings, you’ve got 60 seconds (or less) to give your speech. Terri Sjodin, author of “Small Message, Big Impact” says it should be between two and three minutes long. She also advocates having more than one speech, but memorise and practise each one, and choose the best one for the situation you’re in.

She talks about communications expert Alan H. Monroe’s 5-step approach, which works as follows:

  1. Attention: gain the attention of your listeners by relating to them.
  2. Need: make them feel a need for change by outlining the problem.
  3. Satisfaction: provide a solution and how your plan works.
  4. Visualisation: Project your audience into the future so they can imagine themselves enjoying the benefit of your plan.
  5. Action: What they need to do next and how.

The point of an elevator speech is to both inform and persuade, to get your listeners to engage with you. Having a structure keeps you focused and ensures that you don’t wander off topic. It also increases your confidence, as you know you’re well-practised and have honed your message.

Sjodin says that the best, most memorable speakers build a solid, persuasive case to share their message, are creative in their approach, to make things interesting, and deliver their speech in their own, authentic and original voice, rather than in a formal, professional style.

This gives a good starting off point for your elevator pitch, and will give you the assurance that you’re clearly explaining what you do.

You can read more about Terri Sjodin at www.sjodincommunications.com