So named for the short duration of an elevator ride, the elevator pitch is a short summary used to highlight a company, product or person. The idea behind the conversation is to give enough information to pique the other person’s interest in whatever idea you are pitching, and either have them extend the conversation or exchange business cards for a follow-up meeting. It is a commonly used term in the startup community, since when an entrepreneur is networking, they have to be able to pitch their “idea” to potential investors very quickly.

As mentioned, an elevator pitch should be memorable, short and interesting – just long enough to pique someone’s interest in what is being described and provide an opening for later conversations. To compose an elevator pitch, focus on the goal of the pitch (introduce company to potential clients, highlight new product, generate interest in resume). Then explain what the company does using short, action words and communicate the unique selling position of the organization. Engage the listener by using pointed questions and then pull your pitch together with a short summation. There should also be a call to action at the end of your pitch, so that the next person knows what your desired outcome from the conversation is. This could be a follow-up meeting to discuss a partnership, a desire to get a job, or something else entirely.

The best elevator pitches are practiced ahead of time. Write down a short list of points you wish to touch upon, and then time yourself, keeping in mind you often won’t have more than a minute or two to make an impact. Give the speech in front of other people, and have them point out things you could change to make the pitch more engaging.