SAPC Elevator pitches - Top Tips

Are you presenting an Elevator Pitch at an SAPC event?

Telling someone in three minutes why your work matters is a skill that will be new for many. Here we give you a brief guide on the how and why of elevator pitches.

What is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is a different way of presenting your work – with a different structure, and some different emphasis in content.

You have 3 minutes to pitch your idea - select your slides carefully so there are not too many.  Time your pitch carefully to a maximum of 3 minutes.  

An elevator pitch is not your usual ten minute presentation with half the slides removed, and delivered at three times the usual pace… Just as a poster is a different way of presenting your research compared to an oral presentation, an elevator pitch is a third format altogether.

Why elevator pitches?

It is real skill to be able to pitch your work briefly and so hook an audience. A skill that is increasingly important to all of us in the Academic Primary Care community as we work with patients, clinicians, policy makers, managers and funders to drive improvement in primary care through education and  research.

The elevator pitch concept is based on the imaginary scenario that you find yourself stuck in the lift for a short period with someone who matters. This is your opportunity to convince your captive audience that your work matters to them. To convince them why they should support your work – whether that is financially (the classic elevator pitch) or by engaging with the work to find out more, be a part of it.

We have introduced elevator pitches at SAPC conference to give us all chance to develop and practice those skills. We (generously!) offer you the chance of three minutes in the lift, with the added bonus of power point and three slides. Most of the audience at SAPC conferences are not wealthy benefactors or research funding bodies. The captive audience is instead a dynamic group of interested and interesting primary care academics. So your main task is to interest people enough to come and find out more about your work, your ideas – whether over coffee, at the conference dinner, or after the formal meeting has ended.

How do I do a good elevator pitch?

What not to do

Recycling an oral presentation to fit them to an elevator pitch slot (and vice versa) WILL NOT WORK.

The focus of a standard ten minute academic presentation is on establishing the rigour and trustworthiness of your findings – why the audience should believe you. Academic presentations usually follow a standard format of establishing that there is a problem/gap in our knowledge, to define a research question, justify a method to address it, describe the findings and so state our conclusions.  The punch line comes at the end.

What you should do

In contrast, the focus/purpose of a three minute elevator pitch is on establishing WHY YOUR WORK MATTERS – why the audience needs to come and find out more. Elevator pitches need to establish that we have a shared problem, that you have a credible option for dealing with it, and that it is worth the audience’s while speaking with you now. The punch line comes at the start.

The detail (establishing rigour and trustworthiness) will come later - in the follow up conversation - when you have 'hooked' your audience.

For SAPC Conference, your pitch should therefore address the question:

If you had 3 minutes in a lift with member(s) of the APC community, how would you convince them to visit you to find out more about your work?

Top Tips for a good Elevator Pitch

  • The hook - start with the ‘bottom line’…why should the audience listen. (Not all of them will – that’s fine, but make sure you hook the ones you want)
  • Cover the three main issues: we have a shared problem, I have a credible solution, we can do something now
    • Based on Marshall Ganz’s concept of public narratives (see below)
    • Don’t get bogged down in detail (do you really need all those slides and the embedded extras?)
  • Be positive and enthusiastic and make good eye contact with the audience. 
  • Practice – don’t assume you can wing it
    • And get some feedback. Maybe join us at an SAPC workshop…
  • Leave people with contact details – how they can get in touch to find out more (that should be at least one of your slides)
    • Have some written versions too (flyers, business cards)


Marshall Ganz on elevator pitches (well, public narratives really …)

Marshall Ganz argues that our biggest challenge is to get people to pay attention.

We can have the best ideas, the best research but if people can’t/don’t listen… Many factors stop  people from listening (and hearing) - including resistance to change, to things that are new or different; and the busyness that inhibits engagement. To overcome this innate inertia, Marshall Ganz argues that we have to offer people something – something he describes as hope. The hope that we have a solution, the tools (expertise) to help, and the capacity to deliver...

This story of hope is what Marshall-Ganz describes as a public narrative. He argues that to tell a story of  why this matters, we need to use a different approach - a different structure - for our presentations. The SAPC Elevator Pitch guide is based on his approach. You will find many other Marshall Ganz resources available on line. Google Marshall Ganz Public Narratives to start your exploration…

SAPC on elevator pitches

Elevator pitches are a relatively new addition to the SAPC Conference programme. In your feedback, most of you like this opportunity to be introduced to, or to introduce your own, new work and ideas. But you have also asked for some guidance on what makes a good elevator pitch. So we put together this brief guide. We welcome your feedback on additional things we could include. We are also planning on running a sequence of workshops at forthcoming SAPC events – again, we would welcome your thoughts on whether you’d find that useful.