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An Elevator Pitch for the 8-Second Attention Span

It’s a fact of life. As you read this sentence, I have already begun to lose you and your attention. Maybe you’re thinking about dinner. Or your dog. Or what your kids are doing way too quietly in the other room. Now, let me try and get you back. On average, we have an 8-second… [Read More]

Elevator pitch for 8-sec attention span by Penny Sansevieri for

It’s a fact of life. As you read this sentence, I have already begun to lose you and your attention. Maybe you’re thinking about dinner. Or your dog. Or what your kids are doing way too quietly in the other room. Now, let me try and get you back.

On average, we have an 8-second attention span.

And since goldfish have an average attention span of 9 seconds, they’ve surpassed us.

Do I have your attention now?Elevator pitch for 8-sec attention span by Penny Sansevieri for

Attention is the hottest commodity in any marketing. If you can’t get and keep someone’s attention, you’ve lost the opportunity to close the sale.

So what does that have to do with you? Well, if you look at most people’s pitches these days, you’ll see they follow a stale format. By leading with a long, overly detailed backstory, they meander along for a paragraph or two, before coming to a point.

I get these all the time.

I’ll tell you this: if you haven’t told me what you want by the end of the first paragraph, you’ve lost me. The shorter the better, too. Chances are, if your paragraph is too long, I may only scan it.


The Elevator Pitch

Over the years, I’ve talked a lot about elevator pitches. They’re increasingly important, too. And, even more critically, you must lead with your bottom line in order to get attention.

Elevator pitch for 8-sec attention span by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.comSo, what is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is a short one- to two-sentence description of your book, product, or service. It’s the briefest of the briefest descriptions you can develop.

How do you begin pulling yours together?

First, take a look at the core of what you’re selling. If it’s a book, then I want to know what your book is about—and I mean it’s true core.

If you’re selling a service or product, what’s the scary thing that will happen if someone doesn’t buy your stuff or hire you? And what are the benefits of doing so?

And, it may not be what you think the consumer/reader wants to know. Instead, it’s what they actually need. What’s in it for them?

When I work with people on elevator pitches, I find that they often kept the best sentence for last. And if your headline gets buried at the end, you’ve lost your audience.

As authors, this can be difficult, since we save the climax of the story until the final chapter. Instead, in an elevator pitch, you should lead with the tease that will pull the consumer/reader in.

When would you use an elevator pitch?

Elevator pitch for 8-sec attention span by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.comYou might use it to promote yourself to the media, to book a speaking event, or to pitch a blogger. You could also use it in an ad. And when you look at some well-known ads/elevator pitches, you start to get a sense of why it matters.

FedEx, for example, says: When it absolutely, positively needs to be there overnight. Boom. You and your benefits right up front. As well, it instills a bit of fear because the implication is: if you use the other guys, your package may be sitting in a warehouse in Houston for a few days and you’ve lost the deal.

What Makes a Great Elevator Pitch

Every elevator pitch is different, but they should matter to your reader! So they should have emotional appeal (don’t rule out “scary”). They should be helpful and insightful. And most of all, they should be timely.

Everyone Loves a Good Story

Elevator pitch for 8-sec attention span by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.comStories are a good way to build rapport with your audience. Let’s take a minute to explore how this is true. If you are into any reality tv shows—from America’s Got Talent to American Ninja Warrior and beyond—you’ve seen this in action. They tell an emotional backstory about a competitor that makes you root for—and remember them—because now you’ve got emotional skin in the game. And this person is memorable.

If you’re an author, you’ve already told a story in your book. Now it’s time to make the story compelling.

Essential Elements of a Powerful Elevator Pitch

We just talked about what makes an elevator pitch great—and now are the elements you need to make it powerful:

  • Concise: Make it short, sweet, and to the point.
  • Clear: Use simple, compelling language everyone can understand without thinking too long or hard.
  • Passion: If you’re not passionate about your topic, how can you expect anyone else to be?
  • Visual: Use words that paint a picture in your reader’s mind.
  • Stories: Don’t forget to tell the story.
  • What’s the worst that could happen? What will people miss out on by not buying your product, reading your book, or using your service?

How to Craft Your Killer Elevator Pitch

  • Write it down: Start by writing the story of your service, book, or product in two paragraphs or less. This will get the juices flowing. If you’re an author, this will be excruciating. Because I’m asking you to take your 100,000-word book and whittle it down to two paragraphs. But I promise you it’s worth it to get to the key elements of your book.
  • Make a list: Write down 10 to 20 things that your product, service or book does for the reader. These can be action statements, benefits, or book objectives.
  • Record yourself: Next, read it out loud and record yourself to see out it sounds. It’s pretty certain that you won’t like your first few attempts. And that’s ok. Only rarely will the first thing you write be effective.
  • Rest: In other words, don’t rush this. Let it rest at least overnight. Your elevator pitch is the most important thing that you will be creating in your marketing package. So, ensure that it’s just right.

Finally, strive to be different from everyone else. Surprise or even shock your consumer. Unusual facts are quite effective. That's what I did when I said that goldfish are eclipsing us in terms of attention span. This works well for authors who write fiction.Elevator pitch for 8-sec attention span by Penny Sansevieri for

And don’t worry about what other people think. To be memorable you’ve got to take chances. We admire the risk takers because we wish we could do the same. A good pitch allows you to take the chance and be different. Because if you—and your message—don’t stand out, you won’t get noticed in our 8-second world.

(Be sure to also catch my earlier post on media pitches, if you missed it.)

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3 thoughts on “An Elevator Pitch for the 8-Second Attention Span”

  1. Sorry Penny, but the 8-second attention span is a pile of crap rather than a fact of life. Look up a March 10 BBC article titled Busting the attention span myth or Jo Craven McGinty’s FEb 17 Wall Street JOurnal article titled Is Your Attention Span Shorter Than a Goldfish’s?

  2. I appreciate your input, but major studies and our own experiences would argue a stronger, opposing view. Have a read of this book and let me know your thoughts!

  3. Who did the major study about a goldfish’s attention span, and the others?

    My own experience with public speaking is that people pay attention for 7-minute Toastmasters talks (420 seconds or over FIFTY TIMES that bogus 8-seconds). They also eagerly watch videos of 18-minute TED talks.

    Out here in Idaho people pay to watch Professional Bull Riding, where a ride is eight seconds long. If the average attention span was 8 seconds, half of them would zone out (so the events would lose money and die).

    As for Paul Hellman’s book, I mentioned it in my January blog post before it came out. I’m not about to waste my time reading something so shallowly researched that it chose a startling but junk title.

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