We’ve all had to sell ourselves in a matter of seconds at one point or another. Tripping over words, using filler phrases to try to bide your time and trying to string a coherent, confident sentence together; it can be stressful if you’re not prepared. So take stock, be assertive, and nail an elevator pitch with a couple of these tips.

Reel them in

Just like every great story has a beginning, middle and an end, so should your pitch. You should have something to really reel them in with the first line, follow up with a little more detail and conclude with a concise explanation of how beneficial you or your idea are. Whether you’re pitching for an investment, an idea or a job, choose your words carefully and just like fishing you’ll want to hook a catch and then slowly reel them in or else your efforts may be in vain.

Focus on the Bigger Picture

“I connect brands with the customers they need to reach, online” is a better way of saying “I run social media accounts for a business”. It’s more inspiring and hints at the possibilities and also solves a problem. Most people want to get one-to-one access and face time with their customers via social media but don’t know how, so by describing what you do in that matter you already inspire problem solving. Same goes for pitching an idea rather than a role – lead with how transformative your idea is, rather than the day-to-day application of how you achieve results. If they want to know more, they will ask to elaborate on it.

Be Confident and Assertive

Filler words like “well” “um” “so” etc. are exactly that – unnecessary filler. What do they add? Nothing. So delete them – have a strong, controlled, confident and assertive line or two about what you do or what your idea is.

Leave Breathing Space

You’re never going to surmise, sum up and say everything necessary in a short elevator pitch. There just isn’t enough time and it’s best to err on the side of saying just enough rather than too little or too much. The devil is in the detail of course, but you’re not defending a PHD here, you’re simply introducing a concept or idea. Pick the key things - the most interesting, noteworthy or attention-grabbing elements - and focus on those, so that the person you’re in conversation with, or pitching to, can ask for more information. In fact, you almost want to lead the person down a garden path and guide their thoughts onto what comes next. Say, for example, you have an idea for a brand new role at your company and you need your boss to set aside a yearly salary for that role, you’ll want to be so convincing in the positives and benefits of this new role that the first thought after your elevator pitch will be “I don’t see much downside to that, but how much” and then you’re prepared with the figures to follow up.

Don’t Overpromise, Overstretch or Lie

A pitch is designed to grab attention and start a conversation on the merit of what’s being pitched. Sure, it’s an idea and the finer points need to be worked out or discussed, but don’t promise things that can’t be achieved. Be realistic and be specific, don’t stretch the truth in order to get a pitch over the line.