10 to 20 to 30: An Elevator Pitch Framework

20 words. That is 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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