Perfecting your elevator pitch


by Katie Navarra

The National FFA recently sponsored a series of webinars that offered tips for building an elevator pitch that gets remembered. The biggest mistake most people make when advocating for themselves, their organization or their community is this: They don’t know how to communicate who they are or what they want. That means they are forgettable.

With a little reflection and simple structure, you can stand apart from the crowd and be understood by those you wish to include in your mission, according to Reagan Pugh, a leadership coach and keynote speaker. During his session “Who Are You and What Do You Want,” he offered practical tips for crafting an elevator pitch that will leave a lasting impression.

“If we’re going to be effective advocates, we have to have some clarity on who we are, what it is that we want and we have to know how to communicate that compellingly to people,” he said.

Short & to the point

People have a small attention span and most folks miss the opportunity to get a conversation started because when they are asked who they are or what they do, they respond with saying “it’s complicated.”

“I remember one April summer when my older cousin was visiting and I tried to talk to him about our lawn business. He’d say ‘Tell me what you’re up to’ and I said ‘Well, it’s kind of complicated. We take care of your lawn like you would take care of our own,’” Pugh recalled.

“He said ‘Stop, stop, stop. Of course, no one’s buying your services because you don’t have a clear and compelling pitch. You have to start with the problem.”

Offer a solution

People are most interested in hearing how you’re going to solve a problem, not what you’re offering. Pugh emphasized people don’t buy services from those who offer the best services and individuals don’t rally around an advocacy cause because it’s the most deserving. They respond to the business, group or person who provides the most clarity.

“The golden rule is to be more interested than interesting any time you have an opportunity to provide a pitch,” he said. “That means you don’t launch straight into a pitch. Ask some questions about them, but don’t overstay your welcome.”

If you can tell the person that you’re speaking with is a straight-to-business kind of person, then drop into your pitch. Others prefer a bit of conversation before “the sell.” It’s as much about reading the person as it is about being a good storyteller.

Be remembered

The number one goal of an elevator pitch is to be remembered so they take action – sign on the dotted line. People, particularly legislators, hear requests all day, every day. If you can be remembered and stand out a week or a month later, that’s a game changer.

“The number one sin of a bad elevator pitch is being boring,” he said. “Smart communicators start with a compelling problem that people are going to want to see a solution for.”

Focus on the passion

It has to be a problem you’re passionate about. Your involvement in agriculture and the farming lifestyle is something you’re enthusiastic about. Think about your participation in the industry and what you would like other people to know and why it’s important. Including a statement, a vision that’s bigger than you, one that’s for agriculture as a whole or a decision in your state, is crucial.

“It’s not about you, and that’s a key component,” he said. “Be a part of the solution. If we’re more interested than interesting, we remember that what we do is not about us.”

Three steps

Pugh has developed a three-step approach that works for creating any elevator pitch that will be remembered: solution, story and your ask.

“If it’s also a problem that your legislator or whoever it is you’re advocating to says to themselves internally ‘Oh, yeah, that bothers me’ or ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve been trying to untangle that puzzle in my head,’ you’ll be remembered and that’s the number one goal of a good pitch,” he said.

“Whenever you go to make an ask, make sure that you’re tailoring it to the person that you’re talking to so that when they see your request, they believe you’re not just asking this of every single legislator on Capitol Hill or they’re not just asking this of every person over the age of 30,” he said. “They thought about me and they believe that I can play a unique part in their solution that’s going to go the distance for you.”

A recording of Pugh’s full presentation is available at

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