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The Real Scoop on Elevator Speeches
By Veronika (Ronnie) Noize, the Marketing Coach

One of the most common misconceptions I encounter regarding elevator speeches is that one has from 30 to 45 seconds to make one's case. Oh, sure, if you're riding from the lobby to the 80th floor of the Empire State Building, you do have about 45 seconds, but you run the risk of boring your listener to tears. That's not what you want, is it?

A true elevator speech can be delivered during a single-floor ride.

Sound impossible? It's not, and as a matter of fact, the term "elevator speech" actually came from the land of fairly short buildings, and even shorter attention spans, so you can be sure that 45 seconds of talking "at" your prospect is not what an elevator speech is all about.

Elevator speeches came to us from the entertainment business, and more specifically, the Hollywood movie business. Seriously! Here's the deal:

When a producer or writer wanted to pitch a movie idea to an agent or studio exec that had the power to get that movie made, the biggest obstacle was getting enough time to explain why the movie should get made. Important people in Hollywood don't usually have time to grant meetings to everyone who wants one, so out of necessity, the elevator speech was born.

Savvy producers and writers would run into studio execs casually, and would have just a few seconds to deliver a pitch that would engender enough interest to merit a meeting. That meant that the producer or writer had to say just enough to explain the key benefits of the movie, and whet the appetite for more details.

Obviously, the producer or writer's name, company name, title, or any other information connected with the project that doesn't scream "box office" was irrelevant to the initial pitch or elevator speech. Sound counter-intuitive? I mean, isn't more information better?

More information really isn't better in this case, because if one has only three to four seconds (and trust me, that really is all the time you have to grab someone's attention), one needs to spend that time talking about something that interests one's audience. And frankly, just like in La-La-land, your audience doesn't care who you are or what your name is until you have convinced them of your value.

Smart writers and producers in Hollywood figured out how to use some sort of shorthand or phrases that made the most of their three to four seconds. For example, how about this eight-word three-second pitch for a movie: "Die Hard on a bus with Keanu Reeves."

What this tells the listener (the person with the power to get this project made) is that the movie being proposed is an action film with the potential for sequels featuring some sort of law officer in a life-or-death struggle with an evil villain, as well as a love interest with a conflict of some sort, and that it has a bankable star attached.

The benefits presented in the elevator speech above included comparative revenue expectations ("Die Hard" was a blockbuster, meaning that it made more than $100 million in initial release, and two profitable sequels were made) with the added insurance of a big-name star.

The benefits were immediately obvious, and the only decision to make was whether or not the studio exec wanted to make this blockbuster action movie. If the answer was yes, there was a basis for conversation.

Notice that some important information was left out, enticing the interested listener to ask questions, such as: Who do you see as the love interest? Who do you see as the villain?

And even more information was left out that could be disclosed in the ensuing conversation to set the hook, such as the villain twist: Instead of an international drug kingpin or illegal arms dealer, the villain in this picture is...a disgruntled cop!

Good information, yes, but totally unnecessary until the interest was established, as were the names of the rest of the players and the cost of the project.

Did that movie get made? Yes, it did. "Speed" starred Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper. Its truly forgettable follow up (remember, the "Die Hard" reference promised franchise potential) was "Speed 2," so of course people aren't pitching many movies using "Speed" as a reference to indicate sequel potential.

Kind of a no-brainer way to do business, wouldn't you say?

Wanna get your movie made, or at least atract the interest and immediate attention of your ideal clients using this elevator speech technique created in Hollywood? Develop an elevator speech that presents the most intriguing and meaningful information first, so that continuing the conversation with qualified (interested) prospects is a no-brainer.

Once you've hooked your audience's interest, you can start filling in the details, including your name, your title, your company name, and any other information is pertinent to the discussion.

To develop your own killer elevator speech, download my How To Create A Killer Elevator Speech tool.

Wondering why that elevator speech isn't working the way you want it to work? Check out my Top 10 Elevator Speech Mistakes to make sure that your elevator speech isn't missing the bus, so to speak.

Read more articles or view Top 10 lists.

Veronika (Ronnie) Noize, the Marketing Coach, is a successful Vancouver, WA-based entrepreneur, author, speaker, and Certified Professional Coach.  Through coaching, classes and workshops, Ronnie helps small businesses attract more clients. For free marketing resources including articles and valuable marketing tools, visit her web site at, or email her at

The Real Scoop On Elevator Speeches  © 2003 Veronika Noize.  All rights reserved.

"I help small businesses attract more clients."
~Veronika Noize, the Virtual Marketing Coach

Veronika Noize LLC
The Virtual Marketing Coach

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