The moderator in the third US presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had a surprise for the candidates. While both had declined to prepare a closing statement ahead of the debate, he asked them to deliver one anyway.

What followed was a lesson in the importance of having an ‘elevator pitch’. Each candidate had one minute to talk down the barrel of the camera directly to the audience — the American people — and pitch for their vote. 

Let’s put politics completely to one side and just compare how each of them rose to the task at hand for a moment.

Clinton did not miss a beat. The Democratic nominee — known for preparing for debates — turned straight to the camera and delivered a concise, structured 60 seconds that touched on her key talking points and promises.

Trump, unfortunately, appeared less prepared. He started with a rambling attack on his opponent and meandered semi-coherently through a minute-long speech that might have thrown a little red meat to his base but didn’t touch on many of his key messages. It felt very unstructured.

Success comes with being prepared for the unexpected

As a viewer, it was a bit of a surprise that one of America’s most famous business people didn’t have his ‘elevator pitch’ ready to go. It’s such an important and common tool in an entrepreneur’s kit. Sure, the moderator hadn’t warned him he was going to ask for a closing statement, so he wasn’t prepared, but the point is he should have been prepared anyway.

Being prepared helps you look professional. Having a neatly crafted, natural-sounding elevator pitch that touches on all your key talking points — that you can pull out at any time, even when least expected, to explain your offering — helps you look like you’re ready to do business any time.

I recommend having three versions of your elevator pitch ready to go — a 30-second version for when time is tight, a 60-second version for those longer opportunities, and a several minute version for those times when you’re at networking events and have a proper opportunity to tell people about your services and products.

Know your key messages and be sure to hit them

Each pitch will obviously have a different level of detail, but it’s important to think about each one carefully to ensure you get the tone right and to make sure you touch on all the important messages you want to get across.

And practice it. Sit in front of the mirror and run through it. Hear how it sounds. Get comfortable saying it. Practice changing it slightly as if you were delivering it to different audiences.

It’s also a good idea to make sure everyone in your organisation has an elevator pitch prepared, too, so you can be sure they’re hitting on key messages and sounding coherent whenever they’re asked ‘so what do you do?’


If you’d like to develop a messaging framework for you and your organisation, the team at Lush Digital Media can help you. To find out more about our Find Your Voice workshops — and how to avoid rambling like Donald Trump — give us a callLike what you’ve read? Sign up to the Lush newsletter for fortnightly advice to help you market your business better, tips from our video production gurus, and a podcast or two from our favourite podcasting team, Brand Newsroom. In the meantime, you might enjoy these:

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