10 to 20 to 30: An Elevator Pitch Framework


20 words.

20 words are the most you can say in an effective elevator pitch.

Forget “thirty second pitches” for a moment. The average attention span has declined from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds today, a 33% fall.

Combine that with the average speaking speed of an adult, approximately 150 words per minute (or 2.5 words per second), and 20 words are all you can say to earn someone’s continued attention or lose it forever.

The basic rules of crafting a pitch remain the same: tell your story, be concise, do not clutter your pitch with industry jargon. These rules are important, but if you remember one thing about pitching, remember the “10 to 20 to 30 Framework”.

The premise is simple: people might give you thirty seconds of their time, but they may not give you thirty seconds of their attention.

People will hear you out for thirty seconds. They will be polite for thirty seconds. They’ll furrow their brows, nod their heads, maybe even stroke their chins to feign interest. But they don’t have to listen. Most people decide whether you’re worth their actual attention in ten seconds. Ten seconds, twenty words. So your first twenty words had better be good.

If you can hold someone’s attention for 20 words, you have bought yourself the chance to hold that person’s attention for another 20 words. If you get to 40 words, or twenty seconds of time, now you can have their attention for 60 words, or thirty seconds.

Write out your 10 second, 20 second, and 30 second pitches in increments of 20 words. Trimming down your pitch is painful, but losing the attention of your most valuable audiences will hurt more.

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Posted on May 12, 2015 in Speaking, Writing

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. Christopher is a highly-sought keynote speaker thanks to his energetic, informative talks. In 2015, he delivered insightful, innovative talks on all aspects of marketing and analytics at over 30 events to critical acclaim. He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.
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