In one of the early episodes of the popular podcast, "Startup", Alex Blumberg documents his effort to drum up seed funding for his new podcast network, Gimlet Media. 

Walking alongside billionaire investor Chris Sacca with microphone in hand, Blumberg fumbles his first attempt to deliver his "elevator pitch" -- the concise story that lays out his vision and strategy for his company, and why Sacca should invest in it.

Obviously unprepared, Blumberg manages to successfully turn away one of Silicon Valley's most powerful investors.

The story doesn't end there, however. 

In the next episode, Blumberg is granted a second chance to deliver his pitch. But this time --before he meets again with Sacca --Blumberg talks through his business plan with his wife, and then works at honing his story down to its essence. 

Blumberg delivers his pitch fluently and confidently. He lands a seed round from Sacca. Gimlet Media is born.

An elevator pitch should be something that you can confidently and quickly deliver in response to the question, "So what do you do?" Or, in the case of Blumberg asking for money, "Why should I invest in you?"

It's a question we all get asked from time to time. And it's a question that can catch you off guard if you're not prepared.

Here are three tips to help you instantly improve your elevator pitch:

1. Prepare three versions.

Create three different versions of your elevator pitch, starting with the most brief encapsulation of what you do, which I call the "one-liner". 

Depending on whom your speaking to, you might want to simply state the name of your company, your role, and your primary area of responsibility. 

I prefer to put a more aspirational twist on what I do. So rather than just say, "I'm the head of communications for a global consulting firm", I might say something like: "I'm the guy at my firm responsible for building the brand, making our people well-known in their areas of expertise, and attracting more business."

A second version, the "30-second nugget", allows you to share more details than the one-liner, but is still concise enough to deliver your message quickly and with impact.

And then there's the "60-second double-click." It's your more fully fleshed out elevator pitch. It can be longer or shorter than this, of course, but you should set a time limit nonetheless so you can deliver enough information about who you are, what you do, and what you're asking for, without pouring out all the details in one go.

2. Tell a story.

Your elevator pitch is not a mechanical response you recite every time you're asked, "What do you do?" The longer versions of your elevator pitch should tell a story about who you are, what your goals are, and what you do to reach them. 

You are the protagonist --the hero -- of your own story, and you're on a mission to achieve a goal: "Build a new business", "grow an existing business", "move into a position of greater responsibility."

And, like any good hero, you probably face challenges and obstacles that you'll need to overcome if you hope to achieve your goal.

3. Ask a friend to read back what they hear.

Besides writing down the different versions of your elevator pitch and then rehearsing it ,  there's another approach you might want to try out. Ask a friend to listen to your complete story about yourself, and then have him playback what he just heard, but in his own words, and as if he were explaining what you do and who you are to someone else. 

You might be pleasantly surprised to hear your own story phrased in terms that you might not have thought of before. Go ahead and incorporate the best language you heard from your friend about yourself into your elevator pitch (and be sure to thank your friend, of course).

If, as Shakespeare's Hamlet once said, "brevity is the soul of wit", then a concise and compelling elevator pitch is the soul of impactful communication in today's information-saturated, time-starved world.

Published on: Mar 31, 2016