How to Create a Compelling Elevator Pitch (FS018)

From now until you die, how many times will you be asked, “what do you do for a living?” Here’s how to make your response exceptional.

When someone asks about “what you do for a living” you can try to make it up on the spot.

But this can have you sounding like a doofus or a douche or someone who doesn’t care about their work.

Your work matters. Why not make how you talk about your work matter too?

Spend some time with us in this conversation (it’s about 1h 20m), you’ll walk away knowing exactly how to put together your compelling 30 second overview of your business.

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Your work matters. Why not make how you talk about your work matter too?
  or copy + Facebook

Tell me about your business in 30 seconds or less.

When Corbett, Caleb or I see you at a conference or talk to you on Skype or coach you or eat lunch with you it’s very likely we’ll ask this question. Prepare your answer, because a). the work you do on this will help every other area of your business, and b). the clearer and quicker you can communicate your business, the deeper and better the advice you’ll get.

Our Fabulous Guest Panelists

In this episode you hear the opinion of the following folks on how to put together a great elevator pitch. We asked these folks because they either make or hear loads of pitches per year. Our thanks to these folks for supporting the show.

  • Mike Paccione — presentation coach of the stars. Currently coaching clients (like Corbett and Pat Flynn) and delivering Duarte’s phenomenal training seminars across the globe.
  • Chris Johnson — head client wrangler at Simplifilm and the best sales guy I know.
  • Jason Glaspey — the bathrobe CEO of Paleo Plan (and many other amazing ideas come to life… check out his founder’s story for more).
  • Jae’than Riechel — running a startup accelerator in lovely Kamloops, Canada (among other ideas too big and businessy for me to understand).
  • Josh Shipp — author, tv host, educator, wearer of adorable hairs, public speaking mogul. Literally.

Show Notes

If You Can’t Explain What You Do In A Paragraph, You’ve Got A Problem – Feld Thoughts — a great little note from Brad Feld who’s the inspiration behind this conversation. I think the original elevator pitch idea comes in this TWiSt episode. Techstars & Foundry Group are a couple things Brad runs.

“Don’t get sick of telling your story.” ~ Brad Feld“WTF is my startup pitch?”

Small Message, Big Impact: The Elevator Speech Effect – Terri L. Sjodin — This is the book about elevator pitches Chris Johnson mentions. Here’s a great 3m video from Terri on how to craft your elevator speech.

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence“A technique for organizing persuasive speeches that inspire people to take action.”

Write Epic Shit — Think Traffic“Sorry, but that’s simply wrong, and not what this site is all about. Learning promotional tactics is not the key to building a bigger audience.”

Business Republic: Build a business that can’t be ignored — Corbett tells the story of how Omar put together his elevator pitch.

Barron Cuadro and Jodi Ettenberg are mentioned in the roundtable of bloggers where Corbett watched how differently each talked about their businesses.

Douchebaggery in Online Business (FS 013) — we mention this episode a few times. If you haven’t yet, it’s worth it.

6 Successors to the Elevator Pitch | Daniel H. Pink — 3 short videos.

Closing Thought

The entire quote-unquote “pro blogging” industry — which exists as the sort of pimply teenage brother to the shirt-and-tie SEO industry — is predicated on the notion that blogging is a meaningful verb. It is not. The verb is writing. The format and medium are new, but the craft is ancient.

John Gruber (emphasis added)

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  • Jason DeFillippo

    Hey guys, just a tip. Launch the episode before the blog post. It’s really annoying to get the write up, go to listen to the show and not have it show up. iTunes takes about 30 min to get good and propagated so post the show to the feed then 30 min later auto-post the show notes. Cheers and keep up the good work.

    • Chase Reeves

      Thanks, Jason. Yes, this time (and the last) there was a mixup with the Libsyn post date. Hoping it doesn’t happen again. Cheers!

  • Donnie Law

    We need more stuff from Chris Johnson! I will buy what he is selling. Good show guys.

    • Chase Reeves

      Ha! Then you’ve come to the right podcast… we mention him in just about *every* *single* podcast at this point.

  • Chase Reeves

    A listener named Adam wrote in with these interesting ways to ask someone what they do for a living (thanks Adam!):

    – What’s your motivation?
    – Is it slow or is it fast?
    – Do you chase your tail around?
    – Do you quit or come in last?
    – Do you count up all your winnings at the end of every day?
    – Or do you think of all the instruments you never learned to play?

  • Omar Zenhom

    Another amazing episode guys. I LOVE THIS PODCAST!!!

    Thanks for the shout-out! An honor to be a mentioned on your show.

    -Omar and Nicole

  • Vikki

    I love this episode. I’ve listened to it at least 4 times.

    • Chase Reeves

      Thanks, Vikki!

  • Martin

    Ah the elevator pitch. Third year entrepreneurship class exam time is here again. This was an exam question which I got correct, even though many years later I’ve struggled with the answer.

    “You don’t have to tell them everything about your business.”

    Well said. Those that care will ask more. Most of the time, folks just move on and complain about their job.

  • Mike Kawula

    Cut in 1/2 this would have been my favorite ever Podcast as a Podcast Junkie. Really awesome hearing all those cuts from experts and truly a topic that should be studied well by ANY business owner.

    Great show!

    • Chase Reeves

      Thanks, Mike!

  • Chase Reeves

    Listener Jim wrote in with this way to ask the “what do you do for a living” question: (thanks Jim!)


    Awesome show guys. Love the content and how humor is interjected!

    Here’s what I like to ask when interacting:

    How do you like to spend your time?

    Allows you to ask questions about their lives and befriend first! If they lead with work then ask them about what they do.

  • Chase Reeves

    Fizzler Kit Maloney wrote this one in. I like the thoughts here a lot:


    Hi Chase,

    La la LooOooVING the Fizzle podcasts! :-)

    Here are two ways that I get around asking someone what they do for a living:

    “So, how do you spend your days?”

    It helps to ask that with a bit of ‘bounce’ to the question… Otherwise, it could sound pretty dreary… as if asking a death row inmate how they mark time in prison. :-/

    The other option is what we do when teaching natural building workshops. On the first day that a group forms, we usually have participants go around the circle to introduce themselves. Our workshops gather people from varied economic circumstances, so instead of putting them on the spot to essentially ‘classify their income’, we ask them to answer the question:

    “What do you do for either love or money?”

    Almost invariably the doctors and lawyers talk about their professions and the people who are at a crossroads, or who don’t have a “desirable” answer by comparison, will happily launch into a description of something they really dig doing and feels special to them. Their stories are usually the most colourful and engaged and get the most ooh’s and ahh’s from the group… a much different experience for that person than if they felt forced to say “Hi, I’m Joe and I wash dishes for a living.”

    Keep uppin’ the UP,

  • Gemma W.

    Why aren’t your podcasts transcribed?

    • Chase Reeves

      Good question, Gemma. We’ve talked about it. Haven’t made a decision yet, but it’s on the table. Thanks!

  • Amechi (on Fizzle)

    LOVE this. Took notes like crazy. Thanks for always teaching in such a fun way. I’ll be doing my homework and using the new contact email, lol.

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  • Darlene

    BALLS! LOL I lost it!

  • metz

    A great elevator pitch! We are probably familiar with this term, and we should care about this!
    I love this podcast, the humor is there and it is not boring! Great stuff and indeed it sinks in! :)
    How will you answer it in 30 seconds? Great points guys!

    Metz– contributor

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  • Azalea Pena

    Is it just me? Why is it that when I hear this question every single time, I have a creepy feeling running up my spine and suddenly, I don’t have the right words to say. For me, it’s the mental battle of saying something that can make your work look ridiculous and you know that you want to be proud of what you do.

    The elevator pitch, being able to say what you can in 30 seconds or less, without practicing any spill can be quite nerve-wracking. I’m sure practice and confidence will do the trick. Thanks for the tips, it was so fun listening to your podcast about overcoming one of the scariest things in life (yes, it scares me that much!).

  • Robbin

    Great podcast. Thanks!

  • Rachel Wynn

    Instead of asking, “What do you do?” I ask, “What’s your claim to fame?” I do this because many people my
    age (31) are under employed and aspire to do something else. I don’t
    care that waiting tables. I want to know what they care about.

    A few years ago I asked a friend of a friend what his claim to fame
    was. Our mutual friend (female) said, “you have to show her!” He showed me
    the “hey” tattoo above his navel. Between him and our two mutual
    friends they discussed that there wasn’t punctuation, so it could be
    hey. hey… Hey? Or hey!

    That’s my question and the craziest answer.

  • Linda Stacy

    Love! Just shared with a group (association) of independent information professionals – really awesome stuff!

Up Next:

Douchebaggery in Online Business (FS013)

There are people who do business in ways that turn your stomach. They're willing to do unethical things, take advantage of people, and sacrifice their audience on the altars of profit and short term gains.

The Sparkline — a blog for independent creatives and entrepreneurs building matterful things.

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