Landing an elevator pitch is a tricky thing to do. While the most important part is the content of your pitch, the way you’ll present it to clients, investors, or higher-ups will make or break the whole thing.
One way to ensure that your pitch will be successful is by following a 20th-century British philosopher’s maxims. Paul Grice made great strides in how we perceive language and semantics through his work on the cooperative principle. His idea is that there are preconceived notions and assumptions on how exchanges will be made when people engage with each other. A 2015 study backs up this idea and even says that children as young as 6 years old can already tell whether the maxims are all there or not when listening to someone speak.
What does this mean for you and your major pitch? It means that decision-makers will filter your words using Grice’s maxims as they listen to you. If you ever step out of bounds, there’s a high chance that you’ll lose their interest. With such high-stakes conversations, it’s crucial to make sure that your hard work will not go down the drain just because you don’t know the right techniques you need to present and discuss it well.
So how should you go about your pitch? Let’s take a close look at Grice’s framework in order to learn how to grab your listener’s rapt attention.
1. Limit what you say to only what’s needed
The idea behind an ‘elevator pitch’ is that you should be able to discuss it entirely in a short span of time. To do that, you cannot beat the bush or go off tangents. You have to go straight to the point. It would also be best not to discuss more than what’s necessary as there’s a chance that it can create confusion.
Grice’s maxim of quantity states that one should try to be as informative as possible and not more. Giving excess information can clutter your story and position and will keep you from being precise and effective. This is why it’s crucial to keep editing your pitch until it’s pared down to the most essential elements.
This precept is believed to be one of the most challenging parts as it requires restraint without sacrificing the content. It can be a bit daunting, too, but one-way experts recommend to conquer this challenge is by ensuring that your message is propelled forward as you build your case. One trick is by following your every sentence by the question, “so what?” If what you’ll say next will not move the message forward, you should leave it out.
2. Back what you say with evidence
In the age of fake news, we all know how important it is to only state facts and nothing but. Following Grice’s maxim of quality, you should make sure to only speak the truth and to be ready to back up your claims.
It’s said that if your listeners start asking whether your statement is true, they’re already divesting from your message. You shouldn’t give your listeners the opening to doubt what you say by providing credible and truthful information. Doing so will help you keep their attention and will prevent them from straying away from your presentation.
The great thing is that we’re now living in the age of information. Verified data that will reinforce your position right are at your fingertips, just waiting to be uncovered and cited. Just be careful when citing statistics, however. Studies show that they can be a bit alienating so it’s best to provide sufficient context as well.
It’s natural for listeners to try to corroborate the information you’re presenting so it’s best to anticipate the skepticism. Doing so will let you cover your bases and you’ll also be able to keep your audience engaged.
3. Keep things relevant
The best way to deliver your message is by sticking to it and staying on topic. How can you expect a listener to buy into what you’re saying if they can’t tell what exactly it is? Make sure that your additional statements are contributive and relevant to your message. As they say, context is God even if content is king.
4. Be organized in presenting your arguments
Last but not least is that you have to be organized when presenting your position and arguments. This guarantees that effective communication as the flow of the conversation or speech will have a singular direction. This will allow listeners to stay on track with what you’re saying, ensuring that they understand the information you’re presenting. Be clear and easy to understand. And if you can, be brief about it.
Avoiding obscurity and ambiguity will greatly help in this regard. The flowery speech might make you sound smart but it might not keep the attention of your listeners. Tailor-fitting your speech to better appeal to your audience is also ideal to keep your audience engaged.
Science shows that most folks are conditioned to keep an ear out for these maxims so if you manage to make them work for you, you can expect great results from your pitch. As the precepts are very reasonable, too, and will only really need you to stay on topic, be concise, and truthful so they shouldn’t be too hard to execute. With some planning, outlining, and prioritizing, you can be sure to create a pitch that will help you nail all four precepts without a hitch.