Deep dive: an elevator pitch

Fiona Myles smiling and laughing with participants of the Creative Enterprise Programme in Mexico.

Fiona Myles with participants of the Creative Enterprise Programme workshop in Mexico City, February 2019

During the Creative Enterprise Programme (CEP) workshop, participants have three opportunities to present, gain feedback and hone their elevator pitch. This is a great way for the entrepreneurs to share their ideas with the room, receive rapid feedback to develop their ideas, and build their self-belief.

In February 2019, the British Council in Mexico City hosted CEP at Piso 16 as part of Creative Collective, a new three-year initiative to develop the Mexican creative economy. From more than 400 applications, 30 young entrepreneurs were selected from more than 20 cities. The creative entrepreneurs included:

  • Creative food and drink businesses from Baja California, a UNESCO creative city of gastronomy.
  • Creative hubs from Yucatán and festivals businesses from a range of regions.
  • Film, dance, theatre and new technology businesses.
  • A craft and textile business incorporating traditional Huichol art.

The entrepreneurs joined the programme to be given the chance to grow their creative businesses. A thread throughout the programme is getting the entrepreneurs to tell their story in a compelling way.

The elevator pitch is about being able to explain your business proposition in 30 seconds, the duration of an elevator ride.

“From two minutes to 30 seconds... After three days, it is incredible how almost all the participants were able to present their idea clearly and with enthusiasm. The improvement was incredible.”

Julieta Jiménez, Director of Piso 16, venue for the Creative Enterprise Programme workshop in Mexico City, February 2019

Your pitch

The elevator pitch is a succinct description of your business that tells a compelling story and can start a conversation. One way to structure your elevator pitch is to draw on Simon Sinek’s Start with Why:

  • Why: the purpose, challenge or problem your business or product/service is addressing. Why should your audience care about what you are setting out to do?
  • How: the process. How will you deliver on your idea?
  • What: the result. What will you deliver that’s unique, desirable and impactful?

“Pitching helped me to make a really big idea into something portable and easy to share.”

Andrea Carmona Hernández, participant of the Creative Enterprise Programme workshop in Mexico City, February 2019

Your audience

Your pitch can be tailored to different audiences e.g. potential customers, partners and investors. For each audience, you need to be clear on what the ask is at the end of your pitch. What is the call to action? Is it a meeting, referral, feedback and/or investment? For investors, your pitch needs to go further into the numbers and scale of the idea.

Your delivery

The audience of your elevator pitch are judging you as much as the idea, so make sure to think about your:

  • Body language.
  • Tone of voice.
  • Attitude.

Psychologist Albert Mehrabian found that people are hard-wired to subconsciously better absorb non-verbal communication than verbal and this has its roots in the brain’s development. How you say something, your tone, makes up 38 per cent of how an audience responds, body language makes up 55 per cent, with what you actually say makes up only seven per cent.

I have facilitated Creative Enterprise Programme workshops in four continents and I find that people watch body language very closely. In places such as Vietnam where openly disagreeing isn’t commonplace, people carefully observe body language for clues to see if what you are saying is what you really think. In Mexico, people look for your personality: would they actually like to work with you? Other things people examine are your values: are you genuine and authentic? Your homework: is your idea well researched and thought through? Your ambition: is your business likely to scale?

The power of three

In the workshops, the process of pitching three times improves both the clarity of ideas and confidence of the entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs come prepared to first present their pitch on the morning of day one. They have two minutes each. This is a useful way for everyone to introduce their businesses and gain feedback from the other participants.

After a session on how to construct a pitch (why, how, what), participants rewrite their pitch as homework, ready to present in 60 seconds on the morning of day two, again with participant feedback. On day three, before their last chance to present their pitch, participants “step into each others shoes”. Each entrepreneur pretends to be the CEO of another business and shares their ideas on what three things they would do if they really did own this business and one thing they would stop doing. This helps the real CEO to focus on the most important points of their business, and in Mexico this helped to strengthen this new community of entrepreneurs who can continue to help each other to develop.

“After talking so much about your product, you become more confident with your product and you feel like able to promote it everywhere and with anyone.”

Mariana Palma, founder of Puntié and participant of the Creative Enterprise Programme workshop in Mexico City, February 2019

The final pitch

At the end of day three, the entrepreneurs are ready to present their final 30-second elevator pitch. In Mexico, we set it out more formally, as a stage with an audience, and we filmed the pitches so that each entrepreneur has a record of their achievement.

A group photo of the Creative Enterprise Programme workshop participants in Mexico City.

The Creative Enterprise Programme workshop participants in Mexico City, February 2019

A pitch from Mexico

Participant of the Creative Enterprise Programme in Mexico, Mariana Palma, presenting her elevator pitch on pointe.

Mariana Palma presenting her elevator pitch in Mexico City, February 2019

Mariana Palma participated in the Mexico workshop with her business Puntié. She has developed a technology to help ballerinas with their pointe placement. She even presented her final pitch following the "Why, How What" format on pointe!

"It looks easy doesn’t it? Well, starting to put all your weight on the tip of your toes hurts a lot, and doing it wrong hurts even more...

By providing instant feedback to dancers of their position to prevent injuries on toes, ankles, knees, hip, back and even neck. Because we’ve been in your position and we want to help you to improve it.

So Puntié developed the first interactive ballet toe pads which function as a tool for dancers to learn how to get on pointe faster and most of all, safer."


Fiona Myles

Fiona Myles is a Creative Enterprise Programme Workshop Associate based in the UK.