Proposal Mini-Genre: Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a short speech (usually 30 seconds to two minutes long) that you prepare in order to quickly summarize a proposal. You might prepare an elevator pitch if you are working in sales and want to be prepared for potential customers, or if you are an entrepreneur and want to be prepared in case you meet a potential investor. The term “elevator pitch” refers to the idea that you could compete your proposal during an elevator ride, in case you happen to be riding the elevator with someone who could grant your proposal.

Elevator Pitch to an Employer

“Professor Lee? I’m a first year biology major. I’m experienced in gel electrophoresis and Matlab, and I’m really interested in learning more about genetic research. Would you be willing to consider me for a position as lab assistant next year? I can send you my resume and references.”

Elevator Pitch to an Investor

“Bananarama will be Springfield’s first full-service banana stand. We’ll sell fresh, hand-dipped bananas in 34 enticing flavors. The frozen fruit market is among the fastest growing in our state, since it offers a health-conscious alternative to ice cream and frozen yogurt. Would you be interested in being part of an enterprise with projected $1 million in sales over the next five years? I can send you my business plan by email.”

Elevator Pitch to a Customer

“Hi, would you like a free sample of our Hungerfree energy bars? With each sale, we donate fifty percent of our proceeds to UNICEF to fight child hunger. Plus, the peanuts, whole grains, and honey will help you get through your next class Hungerfree. If you like the sample, you can buy one for just $1.”

Use the Toolkit

Let’s use the three genre toolkit questions from Chapter 1 to examine this genre.

What is it?

An elevator pitch is a short request. Each one begins with an introduction—either of a person, of a business, or of a product. Then, each pitch provides a very short description—of the person’s qualifications, the business’s value, or the product’s qualities. Each pitch also includes a request. You may begin or end with the request. You can see that in Examples 1 and 2, the request comes last, after the explanation. In Example 3, the request comes first, and the explanation second.

Who reads it?

Elevator pitches are usually delivered orally, so instead of a reader, they have a listening audience. For each of these examples, you can imagine a different audience and situation. In Example 1, you might imagine that a student has run into a professor in the hallway or waited to speak to him after class. In Example 2, you can imagine that Bananarama’s owner has met a wealthy investor at a business fair or at an event for alumni of the owner’s college. And, in Example 3, we can guess that a student may have set up a display in a high traffic area on campus. In each Example, the audience is a potential employer, investor, or client, someone who has the power to grant the request.

What’s it for?

An elevator pitch is primarily a persuasive genre: the goal is to convince someone to grant your request, or at least to consider it. For that reason, you can consider an elevator pitch a very short argument. In some cases, it is also an opening for further conversation or writing. You might follow up an elevator pitch with a resume, as in Example 1, or with a longer print proposal, as the Bananarama owner did (Example 2).