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For an Impactful Elevator Pitch, Aim to Connect Emotionally  

“We act on logic, but we buy on emotion,” says Lida Citroën, speaker, author, executive coach, and CEO of LIDA360 LLC.

In the 2023 CSO Secure Horizons event at GSX, Citroën led a group of senior security executives (SSEs) in exercises and discussions around personal branding, developing influence, and crafting compelling communication. Leveraging emotion and storytelling can help security executives connect more fully with a wider audience, earn buy-in, and build relationships.

In one exercise within the two-day event, exclusive to CSO Center members, participants learned how to develop clearer narratives within their elevator pitches—short 30-second speeches that introduce the listener to who you are and what you stand for. These spiels are often used to introduce yourself to a stranger, kick off a meeting, or facilitate networking.

However, elevator pitches frequently go wrong, Citroën says. The speaker could essentially be rattling off their job description or résumé; using body language inappropriate for the situation, such as a lack of eye contact or overexcited hand gestures; or oversharing with jargon, too much technical detail, or irrelevant information that confounds the listener.

A good pitch, on the other hand, shows excitement, is concise, and shows interest in others, turning a short speech into an entrée for a productive and positive dialog.


Stories that are personal and confident are memorable.

Good communication requires confidence, clear messaging, emotional intelligence, rapport building, and modulation of voice and tone, Citroën says. There is no one-size-fits-all communication style, though, and SSEs need to be ready to modify their elevator pitch to different situations, audiences, and topics.

For example, a one-on-one introduction at a casual networking event would be very different from the style and tone of an introduction to a crowded audience before a keynote address or presentation.

In general, Citroën says good elevator pitches have three elements:

  1. Tell them what you do—without assuming they know all about your field. Avoid jargon.

  2. Tell them how you do that role differently, or why you are motivated to pursue it.

  3. If there’s time, share a story or anecdote that paints a picture of what it’s like to do your work.

Those stories can enable SSEs to better share data, capture attention, drive key points home, and humanize themselves to their audience. Storytelling is a gentler way to guide the audience into a difficult subject or a new topic, Citroën says.

“Improving our ability to tell an effective story as leaders in our field—especially to our respective business leaders—is another key theme that I think will pay big dividends,” says RC Miles, CPP, global director of safety and security for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and one of the CSO Center members who helped guide this year’s program.

If elevator pitches prove difficult for you, Citroën has some guidance. First, practice. Don’t script the entire speech, because then it will be difficult to break out of that script to adjust to different situations. But instead, try writing an outline of the key elements you want to emphasize about yourself. Also, ask trusted individuals—a spouse, colleague, mentor, or friend—to workshop your elevator pitch with you. Practice the speech on them and ask for their honest feedback—if they didn’t know you, what would they learn about you from this 30-second introduction? Is there anything you should work on?

Second, aim to keep your message clear—don’t get distracted or add unnecessary detail. That’s what the following conversation is for.

Third, remember to end with purpose; most people will remember the first and last parts of a presentation or message the most, so make sure to stick the landing by emphasizing the personal message you want your audience to keep thinking about afterward.

Remember, “stories that are personal and confident are memorable,” Citroën says.

Consider what you’ve seen and heard this year at GSX—what elevator pitches really resonated with you? What worked about them? Did they rely on charisma to make an impression, or did the speaker craft a message that connected with you personally? Share your lessons learned and pro tips for successful elevator pitches on ASIS Connects.

Claire Meyer is managing editor at Security Management, which publishes the GSX Daily. Connect with her on LinkedIn or email her directly at [email protected].