One of the most common topics of discussion at Pitch Practice is the time for the elevator pitch. Why 30 seconds? Next time you’re actually on an elevator, time the ride. It’s usually much less than 30 seconds. So why do we base an elevator pitch on that unit of time?

The simple answer is, you gotta start somewhere. You really don’t need 30 seconds to get your message across. We use 30 seconds as an arbitrary tool for building discipline into your words about what it is that you do. But why? Well, another simple answer to that question is that, when someone does ask you what you do or what your startup is all about, the last thing you want to do is have them glancing at their watch after you’ve been blathering on for 3 or 4 minutes.

It’s about getting your message across succinctly and effectively. Those two just happen to coincide with bring brief. The reason for brevity should be obvious, but to a great number of people, it’s not. When you first meet someone or someone asks you a pointed question (e.g., “what’s your startup do?”), it’s only polite to get to the point, especially where this type of question most often happens: at networking meetings.

Just like we put lines on a field or court, margins on a document, limits on the characters in a tweet, and size optimizations on an image for a social post, it’s about discipline. Thirty seconds is completely arbitrary, but the exercise of creating a pattern of words that gets the attention of your listener and compels some action in under 30 seconds is no different than the act of chipping golf balls into a 5-gallon bucket from varying distances.

Practicing your pitch is about learning discipline in your words.

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