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The elevator pitch: How to promote physiotherapy

While we’d normally advocate taking the stairs, this second article in a two-part CPD series invites you to use the lift!

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Imagine the scene: you’re attending a work-related event and realise that you’re standing next to an influential decision-maker in the queue for coffee.

Do you:

  • fiddle with your name badge, avoid all eye-contact and hope the queue moves quickly
  • start talking to a stranger in the queue about the weather or your holiday plans  
  • introduce yourself to the decision maker and have a quick conversation that leaves them wanting to know more about how physiotherapy works

Nothing speaks louder about the benefits of physiotherapy than when a CSP member describes the impact of their practice – whether on an individual’s health and wellbeing, on the development of understanding about theory or practice, on someone’s learning, or on the capacity of a workforce to deliver an excellent service.

In the last issue of Frontline (page 29, 2 July), we asked you to consider what is unique about your practice – the things you do, the people you work with and how the work is organised.  This article will help you develop those ideas to create a quick, compelling conversational piece that will convince decision-makers to find out more about how physiotherapy works.

The elevator pitch

The elevator pitch is a technique used by people to promote the value of their work or business to others. In today’s busy world where information is consumed in bite-sized chunks, the idea of the elevator pitch – a message that lasts the 30 to 120 seconds taken to take a ride in a lift – is potentially useful for telling people how physiotherapy works.

The main purpose of the elevator pitch is to begin a conversation with a decision-maker about what you (or your physiotherapy service) can offer.  That means you need to know something about that person and what matters to them so that they want to keep talking to you about what you can do/how you can help. Have a look at the example in box 1.

Box 1 is an example of how CSP members opened conversations with trust managers about physiotherapy’s capacity to help manage orthopaedic waiting lists. And it was the success of those conversations that led to the expansion of advanced physiotherapy practitioner roles during the 1990s.

While the elevator pitch is useful for promoting what physiotherapy can do, it’s also a technique you could use to support the development of your own practice.  Whether that’s about explaining why you should be considered for that ‘dream job’, an educational bursary, a research grant, a service contract or a period of study leave.

Preparing a perfect pitch

Preparing an elevator pitch is a six-stage process that starts by working out what you want to achieve, who you need to convince and what your message is.  Once you’ve nailed that, it’s a case of creating a pitch that you can tailor to meet the needs and interests of your audience, and then polishing your pitch and developing confidence to deliver it (see box 2). fl

Box 1: sample elevator pitch

Hello Ms Service – I’m Sam Cope, superintendent physiotherapist from Cueford Hospital. I’ve just seen the minutes from last month’s trust board meeting and saw how concerned you are about our orthopaedic waiting list and need to hit the targets set for this year.  Did you know that experienced physiotherapists can be trained to triage patients in orthopaedic clinic?  Research shows that this model of practice is safe, effective and highly rated by patients.  It reduces the length of the orthopaedic waiting list without increasing service costs.  By adding a specially trained physiotherapist into orthopaedic clinic you would free up Ms Bones and her team to have more time for surgery. So patients would spend less time waiting for treatment; good news for patients, the orthopaedic service and the trust. Shall l contact your secretary to arrange a meeting with you and Ms Bones to discuss how physiotherapy could cut the trust’s orthopaedic waiting list and help meet those targets?

Box 2: Six steps to success

  • identify your goal
  • explain what you do
  • communicate what is unique about your work
  • engage with a question
  • put it all together
  • practise.


Box 3: Criteria: measuring the effectiveness of your elevator pitch

  • clarity: is the pitch understandable by all or is it full of jargon?  
  • concise: is the pitch succinct, or does the message get hidden by verbal ‘fluff’?
  • compelling: does the pitch explain how your solution resolves a specific problem?
  • concrete: does the pitch provide a specific example of what you could achieve?
  • conversational: does the pitch sound natural, or is the message stilted or preachy?
  • credible: does the pitch fit with who you are/what you do?
  • customised: is the pitch specific to an individual’s interests or needs?


How to use this article to support your CPD

The CPD article in the last edition of Frontline invited you to unpack your physiotherapy practice to develop a thumbnail sketch of the qualities and outcomes that make your physiotherapy practice stand out. Go back to your thumbnail sketch and notes from that activity.  Work through the stages presented in this article to develop an elevator pitch to open a conversation with a local decision maker about your practice.

You will need to decide who that decision-maker is – it could be anybody, from a prospective patient or client to a GP, a local councillor or politician.  The purpose of your pitch is to set up a meeting to discuss how your physiotherapy practice can resolve their problem.

Human speech runs at about 120 words a minute. So your pitch should contain no more than 200 words. That will allow you to manage breath control required for modulation, intonation and clarity.  It will also accommodate a brief pause in the flow of speech – potentially useful along with appropriate eye contact and gestures for emphasising a specific point.

Once you’ve prepared, practised and polished your pitch, present it to a critical friend who will take on the persona of your chosen decision-maker.   You might want to use a digital voice recorder (such as a mobile phone or MP4 player) to record your pitch for posterity!

Record your reflection on giving the pitch before inviting your critical friend to feedback on your performance – using the criteria in box 2.

Use their feedback and your reflection to critique your performance.

The presentation of a pitch is made up of two elements: the content of the pitch; and your physical delivery of the pitch. Use the feedback from your critical friend and your personal reflection to critique both elements of your pitch.

If your pitch was delivered with confidence but failed to open a conversation with the decision-maker, you will need to work on the content of your pitch.  If the pitch was well constructed but your delivery let you down, then you will need to work on confident communication.

Remember to keep any notes, records (text and audio as appropriate) and action points from this activity in your portfolio – as evidence of your continuing professional development.

Finally. Look for opportunities to develop and present your pitch for real – as a way of consolidating your learning and for sharing the evidence with others that physiotherapy works.

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