Elevator Pitching – The WOW, HOW, NOW Approach

English: MBA students pitch their ideas during...

An elevator. An elevator pitch?

One of the hardest exercises I run on training courses is the Elevator Pitch. We role play them meeting me at a coffee break at a conference or something similar. People typically:

  • talk too much,
  • use too much jargon,
  • stand awkwardly,
  • don’t give me enough eye contact,
  • don’t ask me enough questions,
  • don’t seem really interested in what I say etc.

Why does the art of making an elevator pitch often leave people challenged and tongue-tied? Deep down I think most people feel uncomfortable meeting new people. They are anxious because they want to be liked or thought well of. Many professionals also feel uncomfortable in a situation they see as selling.

I think people would benefit from a simple structure and here’s a good one, called the WOW, HOW, NOW approach. It’s nothing like the ‘how now brown cow’ technique!  It comes from Margaret Treanor on LinkedIn, who herself credits Brian Walter (www.extrememeetings.com).


Have an opening line where you say something impressive enough to make the other person want to hear more. It can be humorous, intriguing, puzzling – but it has to be something you are comfortable and confident about saying.

Ideally it should be a creative summary of what you do that will make your counterpart ask for some more clarification. For example my one liner when people asked me the question ‘what do you do?’ is “I help make partners in law firms famous.” The usual reply is for people to ask if that’s possible, and I go on to the next stage…..


It’s time to clarify, and because of the WOW, the other person is really curious to find out more. So in my case I might follow up by saying: “Because of my background….[they might ask about this…] I’m passionate about helping law firms win more profitable work. I do this through supporting business development programmes as well as one-to-one coaching.”


This is where you tell your story and give a concrete example of whatever you are currently working on. This helps explain your work and makes it come alive. Also, most of us are more animated and interesting when we tell stories.

We need to ensure we’re not indiscreet and avoid giving away any confidential information, but I would say something like: “For example, I’ve just finished a project with a professional body introducing a programme to ensure they build better relationships with their key clients. Together, we designed an approach and trained senior people in how to use workshops with the Boards of companies…..and the results are already looking positive….”

Remember that the goal of the elevator pitch is not to get a sale there and then. Rather it is to awaken enough interest in the other person that they will want to know more. If they continue asking questions, you know you have been successful. Either that or they’re super polite!

Anyway, I urge people to spend a little bit of time practising how they introduce themselves. After all, you don’t get two goes at making a good first impression.

I’m now going to see if I can do my elevator pitch on Twitter….can it be done in 140 characters?

How about this as a first draft:

Tony Reiss’s Elevator Pitch for Twitter

I help partners become famous by finding their passion + effective ways of standing out from the crowd. More than 30 top firms use my services


 I’m told that my line “I make lawyers famous,” was also the standard line used by the late great Jay Jaffe. To non-lawyers he would say…”I do God’s work.  I take money from lawyers!”
This entry was posted in Business Development and Selling, Networking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Elevator Pitching – The WOW, HOW, NOW Approach

  1. Pingback: Should Women Read the Sports Pages when Business Networking with Men? | Tony Reiss

  2. great stuff Tony, I have a pitch to do on this friday and I am going to use this technique.

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