The Art of the Elevator Pitch

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Carmine Gallo for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

Credit: Stuart McCall/Getty Images

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Long before your favorite movie made it to a theater near you, it was presented in a pitch meeting. Hollywood screenwriters typically get three to five minutes to propose an idea, but it takes only around 45 seconds for producers to know if they want to invest. Specifically, producers are listening for a logline: one or two sentences that explain what the movie is about. If there is no logline, more often than not, there is no sale.

A winning pitch starts with a winning logline — a valuable lesson for innovators in any field. The most valuable innovations offer novel solutions to challenging problems. But without the support of investors, even the best ideas might never get off the ground. To influence the people who can turn your idea into a reality, you need to deliver your pitch in an exciting and straightforward way. All this starts with the logline — an art that screenwriters have mastered.

When asked what their movie is about, successful screenwriters have a ready answer that is clear, concise, and engaging. Business leaders are asked a version of this same question throughout their careers:

  • What is your presentation about?
  • What does your startup or product do?
  • What’s your idea?

If you can answer in one compelling sentence, you can hook your audience. According to molecular biologist John Medina of the University of Washington School of Medicine, the human brain craves meaning before details. When a listener doesn’t understand the overarching idea being presented in a pitch, they have a hard time digesting the information. A logline will help you paint the big picture for your audience.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.


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