I’ve been a regular Networker for almost 14 years, and I dread to think how many elevator pitches I’ve sat through.  Sadly most just seem to drone in through one ear and out the other without making any impact.

This morning I was at another such event and, as I listened to 29 elevator pitches, I got the inspiration for this post.  I spotted many common speaking mistakes, so I thought I’d highlight the most common ones and share some tips to stop you making the same mistakes.

“The Premature Pitcher”

People often start their elevator pitch with their name, company name and what they do. The problem with this character is that they start speaking as they start to stand up and before the audience has had time to “tune in” to their voice.  Thi delay means that those first few words, go unheard.

So what can you avoid this elevator pitch pitfall?
  • Take your time and take a breath as you rise
  • Don’t start speaking until you have stood up and made eye contact with the audience
  • Don’t start with your name. Instead, Say good morning, share a brief anecdote or pose a question first.  Something that allows the audience to get used to your voice before you give them your name and business details

The Mumbler”

Some networkers develop the bad habit of mumbling their way through their elevator pitch.  Audibility and clarity are essential for understanding.  The poor old mumbler fails, not because of poor content, but because their audience simply can’t make out what they are saying.

So what can the Mumbler do to improve their speaking skills?
  •  Practice speaking slowly and clearly
  • Ask for honest feedback from a  trusted friend or colleague
  • Raise your head and speak out towards your audience, not down at your notes or the table

“The Racer”

The Racer’s problem is, as you might have guessed, their speed.  They rattle through their pitch at a rate of knots driven by their wish to “get it over” as quickly as possible.  The result is that audience members feel overwhelmed, overloaded and are unable to take it all in.

If you are a Racer, here’s what you can do.
  • Take a breath before you start and feel yourself relax
  • Make eye contact with your audience and smile
  • Slow down and take your time  (When rehearsing, aim for around 130 words a minute)
  • Pause between each section or idea to give your audience time to digest each morsel of your message before moving on to the next.

“The Rambler”

The rambler’s problem is that they have no idea what they are going to say before they open their mouth to speak. The result is that their message is often hard to follow, illogical and boring.  This type of speaker is also prone to overshooting their allotted time. A habit which is disrespectful both to their audience and to the other speakers who have to follow them.

Some simple advice for keeping your elevator pitch on track
  • Ask yourself “What do I want my audience to remember after my elevator pitch?”
  • Plan the outline of your pitch in advance. Proper planning prevents poor pitches and presentations
  • Aim to stick to time. If necessary use a timer on your Smartphone or watch or ask a friend to give you a signal to remind you

So what do you think?

If you are guilty of any of these common speaking blunders do yourself and your audience a favour and doing something about them.  If you enjoyed this post please share it with your friends using the social sharing buttons.  If you have a  pet elevator pitch pitfall that I haven’t included yet, leave me a comment below and I’ll update the post.



  1. Craig Hadden – Remote Possibilities on 04/10/2013 at 17:16

    Great advice, Gavin. I agree that one of the key things is to take your time, so you come across as comfortable – and clear!

    Another key (which avoids the Rambler’s approach) is to use a simple, memorable and audience-focused structure. Here’s a table showing a neat 3-part pitch structure that fits the bill.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, or any alternatives you favour.

    • Gavin Meikle on 04/10/2013 at 18:53

      Hi Craig thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading your post and agree that answering the “WIIFM question” is essential. Obviously an elevator pitch is much shorter (30 sec to 1 minute in most networking situations) than a normal sales pitch so it needs to be clear and direct. I believe that the primary purpose of the elevator pitch is to capture the listener’s attention and motivate them approach you afterwards and ask for more information. Many people attempt to explain their entire business and end up swamping their audience.

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