Elevator Pitch


What does ‘Elevator Pitch’ mean?

Elevtor Pitch refers to a succinct and persuasive summary designed to spark interest in an idea, project, product, or person.

How to use this phrase

You might use an elevator pitch in situations like job interviews, networking events, or chance meetings with potential investors or collaborators to quickly convey the essence and value of what you’re offering or seeking.

Dave, I’m running short on time, let me have the Elevator Pitch and I’ll see what I can do.

Origin of “Elevator Pitch”

Various origin stories exist. The specific term “elevator pitch” seems to have been popularized in the late 20th century, although the concept dates back earlier:-

  • Philip Crosby: In the 1970s and 80s, Crosby, a quality technician and consultant, emphasized the need for a prepared speech to quickly present ideas to higher-ups within the corporate hierarchy. His advice was to have an “elevator speech” ready for impromptu presentations to bosses during elevator rides.
  • Hollywood Screenwriters: Another story suggests the term originated with screenwriters who would catch producers in an elevator and had only a brief ride to pitch their script idea before the producer exited.
  • Elisha Otis’s Demonstration: A less directly related but interesting story involves Elisha Otis, who in 1852 demonstrated his safety elevator by cutting the only cable holding the platform he was standing on. His dramatic demonstration acted as a “pitch” for his invention, and while not an “elevator pitch” in the modern sense, it symbolizes the concept of a compelling, quick demonstration or argument.
  • Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso: In the 1990s, Caruso, a senior editor at Vanity Fair, would use brief moments of time, such as elevator rides, to pitch ideas to his always busy Editor-In-Chief, leading to the modern usage of the term.

Phrase trend in print

Here we see the frequency of the phrase “Elevator Pitch” in printed sources over time, with the first reference being in 1866.

Elevator Pitch Trend
Elevator Pitch Trend

Trend of elevator pitch in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.