Ahhhh….the “elevator pitch.” One more tool in the marketer tool-box.

It says here that in order to be super-effective marketers, entrepreneurs, and hustlers-extraordinaire, it’s up to us to distill an explanation of the essence of our skills, services, goals, background, and even our very own selves into a sparkly speech that lasts anywhere from thirty seconds to two minutes.  Then we ask for something.

This speech is supposed to last the length of a ride on an elevator.  It is to be delivered in a lively and vivacious manner to strangers and other people who “matter” (or whatever) and who don’t know they need to know you.

“Elevator” by paolo restifo via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Thirty seconds is shorter than most poems.  It’s barely long enough to contain enough room for a catchy slogan or an annoyingly persistent jingle.  It’s hardly big enough to make a good graffito splash.

An additional minute-and-a-half isn’t much better for this sort of thing.

There are a number of YouTube videos about The Pitch.  Here’s a very good one by Lauren Berger, self-styled “The Intern Queen,” which was published in 2017.

It’s lively, to-the-point, quite cogent, and doable…I guess.  Maybe it can even work, if the Force Is With You and the Odds Are On Your Side.


As I watched this (and other enthusiastic presentations about this form of self-promotion), I had a flash of what it might be like to be the recipient of one of these pitches.

There you are, a typical business-leader thinking Elon Musk business-leader-type thoughts about your own concerns and trying to tease out some solution to an annoying dilemma in a quiet moment, and some earnest person dives into your consciousness and yanks you around with some blather or other about their own needs.

“Elevator” by Mike Bryan via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
This strategy is supposed to encourage you to lend a sympathetic ear?


It makes me wonder how often this sort of things happens to the ones who “matter.”  Why aren’t more of them going postal or something?

I sure would…but, maybe that’s just ‘cause I don’t “matter.” Maybe the ones who “matter” are kinder than me.



Wikipedia says a commonly-held origin story about this strategy is that during the 1990s journalist Michael Caruso kept trying to pitch story ideas to Ilene Rosenzweig, a senior editor at Vanity Fair monthly magazine in New York, and could never pin her down and get her to sit still long enough to hear him out.

The writer planned his attacks on the editor’s consciousness by ambushing her in building elevators and other places and talking fast.  Often the pitches worked and the two got on with their day.

Note, however, that Caruso and Rosenzweig had a long-standing working relationship.  The strategy was a result of years of collaboration, talking, and running around after each other.

The elevator pitch thing was one of the stories they’d tell on each other.

That’s not the same thing as hitting some stranger upside the head with “Your Story.”

“Elevator Speed” by Iulien Ursu via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]


One of the best alternatives to the mindset promoted by advisors to self-marketers (the same guys and gals who tell us we all need to jump out of bed all focused on one clear goal and ready to express ourselves in succinct sound bites) comes from a book by deep thinker and philosopher Parker J. Palmer, ON THE BRINK OF EVERYTHING: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old, a collection of Palmer’s essays, poems and thoughts.

Palmer says he’s one of those “diffuse” people who have lots of different irons in the fire and who do many different and diverse things as he walks through the world.

When I’m asked for the ‘elevator speech’ that sums up my work, I respond, ‘I always take the stairs, so I don’t have an elevator speech.  If you’d like to walk with me a while, I’d love to talk.’”

“Frosted Stairs” by Sieg H via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
He goes on to say, “I don’t know of a life worth living or work worth doing that can be reduced to a sound bite.”

Ya know…I sort of feel that way my own self.

Life takes time to live.  Your story needs time to be told.  And, very often, showing is way better than telling.  Elevators aren’t made for that.

“What Do You Want” by GollyGForce – Living My Worst Nightmare via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]


This YouTube video, “The Last ‘Opelu Man,” is a short documentary published in 2017 by Living Ocean Productions.

It is about Chuck Leslie, one of the last fishermen living on the Big Island of Hawaii using an old-style method of net-fishing for ‘opelu (also known as mackerel scad).

‘Opelu was a traditional staple fish for Hawaiians and is still the second most important fish in catch and market value.

In the video Leslie mourns the impending loss of a body of knowledge he has spent his life learning and using.  He has no one to whom he can pass on the knowledge he holds.  When he dies, the knowledge will go with him.

Now, try making an elevator speech “ask” about that one.  You’ve got two minutes.  GO….

“5 More Minutes” by Julie Jablonski via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


It’s gone quiet again,

That little voice that presses me

To pick up the pen that,

Sharper than a knife,

Cuts into my heart

And lets the blood flow.


I am losing so many of the ones I love.

They are being ripped out of

The places where

They have nestled inside of me, all warm,

And the empty that leaves behind aches.


What need do I have for knives

Or pens

Or words?

There are only tears now.

I am drowning in them.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “elevator” by Gideon Tsang via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you…)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

27 thoughts on “STOP CANNING YOURSELF (No Elevator Pitch)

  1. Netta, you are on this again, I must say that you are doing a wonderful job.
    Your last life built poem got me drooling at my screen, but thus one is superb.

    The part that caught my fancy is: “When I’m asked for the ‘elevator speech’ that sums up my work, I respond, ‘I always take the stairs, so I don’t have an elevator speech. If you’d like to walk with me a while, I’d love to talk”


  2. “I always take the stairs” is a line that’s going to stay with me for years to come. That was a beautifully executed response and I think it’s one that we can stand to learn something from, as elevator pitches can be kind of weak (in my opinion of course).

    And that poem at the end was deep, making me really think about the vanity of things in life.

    You know what I think is important in an interview? Being able to provide value for the listener, and not just be propping yourself up with accomplishments and accolades. You have a chance to get the attention of a company or individual, don’t waste it just by talking about how great you are, but also by talking about how great you can be for them 🙂

    Thanks for the great post, Netta!

    1. Tyson, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I agree with your thoughts about making proper interview moves.  That’s the best time to let someone (who is actually interested) know how great you can be for them!  Good one!

      Please do come again.

  3. I thought I was the only one that didn’t enjoy the “elevator pitch”. I’ve always been uncomfortable trying to force my ideals on somebody else, but if they are interested in what I’m saying /selling I am perfectly capable of talking for hours about a subject. 

    I find it very interesting how the idea of an elevator pitch came to be though, even if he did have a work relationship with her already. Very interesting read, thank you so much for sharing! 

    1. Travis, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m glad you found it interesting.

      Please do come again.

  4. Oh, that elevator pitch – hilarious and serious rolled into one. It was enjoyable to watch as the lessons to learn were summarised well. 

    I found a practical application for this as I’m having a long-awaited interview tomorrow for a role I’d really like to take up. Thanks for tackling this matter.

    1. LuluKay, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m pleased the post was helpful to you.  Good luck with your interview.

      Please come again….

  5. No elevator pitch for me neither. I have done so many things in my life and sometimes feel like a Jack of all trades (or rather Jane :)) but it all belongs to me, all the knowledge I acquired through my passions that vary in time. Life is too complicated to fit it all in a few seconds or even minutes.

    I’ve heard about the elevator pitch before and always thought it would be more than strange to bother the poor victim, as you are saying, with some unrequested speech. 

    I like Palmer’s response regarding the elevator pitch. It’s fun. I also prefer taking the stairs.

    1. Lenka, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m glad the post resonated with you.

      Please do come again.

  6. Carol, thanks for your visit and for your kind words.  I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts.

    Please come again.

  7. That’s pretty interesting. I’ve always struggled with coming up with a little blurb about what I do…but as you described in the post, I do so many things and have so much to say…hahaha. 

    That said, I do believe I need to have enough of a quick blurb or sum-it-up type of blurb that I can say to at least pique their interest or get a conversation going. 

    It was an interesting post though and kinda has me reflecting on how to really approach things. 

    Quick question: if you were asked what you do, how would you describe it? And would you say you have an elevator speech or are you a stairs walker as well? Lol. I’d love to know. Look forward to hearing from you. 😊

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Sean.  Thanks, too, for your question.

      I tend to tell people who ask that I spend my time minding the meaning and mana in my life and watching how other people handle Life Its Own Self as well.  It either makes the questioner politely pull a dig far, far away from me, or we’ll get into some discussion about it all.  Hee!

      That sort of discussion is mostly a stair-walker kind of thing.  I am a diffuse sort of person my own self and tend to do all sorts of explorations of things that are fairly weird, so it’s very hard to come up with anything like a one-size-fits-everything statement.  

      Please do come again.

  8. Great insight! And I need to learn how you cited too. I haven’t mastered that either. 

    But you left me hanging…how do I fix this entrepreneurial ideological dilemma you so realistically portrayed? 

    Now, I don’t want to make elevator quips anymore and I’m stumped, so please, tell me my next step to success as an entrepreneur!

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, Amy.

      Your next step as an entrepreneurial success is to go do what you do (and like to do) the best way you can.  

      I think my major objection to the canned elevator speech is similar to the thing about Muzak.  Generic pablum is not exciting.  There is no life in it, it seems to me.

      If you are doing something that you’re interested in and you like what you’re doing and are learning new things and so on and so forth, then your enthusiasm for whatever that is will probably bubble over and enliven any “elevator answers” you may be called upon to make.

      Will it get you a job or whatever?  I don’t know.   

      However, it will certainly make you more interesting to whoever is riding that elevator with you.  

      Just sayin’.

      Please do come again.

  9. Parameter says:

    Wahoo, honestly going through the article and the YouTube videos just brought back life into me. All I just want to say is – THANK YOU.

    Lauren Berger in the video spelled it out : 

    1) Who are you
    2) A little background of yourself 
    3) Explain context
    4) Connect
    5) Ask

    Like the Opelu Man, I must like what I am doing and focus on it; that is the only way I can put life into it, and if I like what I am doing I can be prepared and ready for the elevator Pitch, at any time and anywhere.

    1. Thank you for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, Parameter.  They do make me smile!  I am so pleased the post resonated with you.

      Please come again.

  10. Hello Netta, nice to see you share this post. I was wondering what you meant by the elevator pitch. I burst into laughter when I read that it is a tool in the marketer toolbox. Well, this is my first time to read about this.

    Palmer caught my full attention and got me blushing when he said “…‘I always take the stairs, so I don’t have an elevator speech…”


    1. MrBiizy, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I am pleased the post was helpful to you.

      Please come again.

  11. robertmccarty says:

    I have run sales teams for quite some time and the “elevator pitch” has been pushed in the industry for as long as I can remember with groups requiring the sales-folks to regurgitate a thirty-second spot.  

    I like Lauren’s video, good structure to an introduction to get the next conversation.  The point should really be about getting to know the person you are talking to.  

    I now challenge the teams I teach to just ask questions and see if there is any value we can add to their situation or life.  The pitch takes care of itself!  I really enjoyed the information, will check back in the future for other sage observations!

    1. Robert, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  They are a validation of my own views, I think.  “The point should really be about getting to know the person you are talking to.”

      I do hope you’ll come again.

  12. Hello and thank you for this article about elevator pitch! I find that I can really relate to this article of yours. 

    Our own lives simply cannot be told in a way like an elevator pitch, specially for those who you had impact with the most on their lives. I have known someone who doesn’t have any apprentice to pass on his knowledge about a craft I passionate about.

    1. Lemuel, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do agree.

      Please do come again.

  13. Some times in life our greatest achievement is not the level we have attained or what we have conquered but rather it can become the legacy that we leave behind and the trademark we have set for others to follow.  Not having our experience impacted into someone may seem like failure.

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, Kirkman.  I do agree.  Especially for the ones who have deeply explored and mastered some traditional craft or art, it can be a heartbreaker.  

      However, it is also a human thing that we who come after the old ones may look at the works of their hands and minds and wonder how they were able to do the amazing work they did.  

      Sometimes, if we choose to follow in the footsteps of the old ones, trying to figure out how they achieved what they did by doing as they did, our explorations into what was done before can resurrect the knowledge and the mana that is inherent in the objects that come down to us.

      My late husband Fred was a self-taught pōhaku ku’i, stone carver, in the real old style.  He did not use power tools to shape his poi pounders and other stone implements and sculpted images.  

      He preferred working the rocks he used with other stone implements that he developed while working with the rocks and with beach sand and water for the finish.  The most advanced metal tool he used was an ordinary welding hammer.  (It was more efficient than the densest rock to remove a lot of the unneeded bulk of a blank rock during the initial shaping.). 

      His mantra was always, “What was done before can be done again.  The stones will help me learn how.”  And they did.

      Fred’s work was extraordinarily organic-looking.  It was like they grew out of the natural stone.  One archaeologist looked at his work and said that there was no way to tell that the thing had been made in modern times.  (Stones can’t be carbon-dated.)

      We humans are amazing, I say.

      Please do come again.

  14. Hi Netta. Thanks for giving us a thought-provoking article! Honestly, I’m not really a fan of an elevator pitch. Yes, it can be a great way to briefly introduce yourself, your career ambitions, or why you would be a valuable member of a team.

    Being authentic, rather than having an elevator pitch, is far more effective. Pay attention to what others are saying and reply accordingly. Make your response specific to what they want and need, and be succinct in your solutions. When the other person in the conversation believes they are being heard and understood, they feel much more appreciated. 🙂

    1. Martina, thank you.  I agree.  Being an authentic person and paying attention to another’s concerns is way more effective for bridge-building than The Pitch.  

      Please do come again.

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