Demanding Attention in an 8-Second World

by | Jul 27, 2017 | Book Marketing Basics

Reading Time: ( Word Count: )

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The truth is that as you read this sentence, I’m already starting to lose your attention. Gradually you begin thinking about your grocery list, what time your next appointment is, and what you might make for dinner. Now, let me try and get it back.

On average, consumers have an 8-second attention span.

Goldfish have an average attention span of 9 seconds.

We’ve officially been eclipsed by goldfish.

Do I have your attention now?

Attention is the new commodity.

If you can’t get and keep someone’s attention, you’ve lost not just their attention (maybe for good) but the opportunity for a sale.

Pitches these days follow a stale format of leading with some sort of backstory, one that is too long and much more detailed than the consumer needs. I get emails all the time that meander on for a paragraph or two, before coming to a point. If by the end of the first paragraph, you haven’t told me what you want or the goal of your email, you’ve lost me. Chances are, if your paragraph is too long, I may only scan it.

Over the years, I’ve talked a lot about elevator pitches and why they’re important and now, more than ever, you’ve got to lead with your bottom line, or you simply won’t get noticed.

So, what is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is a short one- to two-sentence description of your book, product, or service. It’s the briefest of the briefest descriptions you can develop.

How do you begin crafting an elevator pitch? The first step is to look at the core of what you’re selling. If it’s a book, then I want to know what your book is about – and I mean it’s true core.

If you’re selling a service or product, what’s the scary thing that will happen if someone doesn’t buy your stuff or hire you? And what are the benefits of doing so?

So keep this in mind. This isn’t what you think the consumer/reader wants to know but what they actually need: What’s in it for them?

When I worked with people on elevator pitches, I found that they often kept the best sentence for last. This again comes down to the headline, which gets lost somewhere at the end, after I’ve stopped paying attention. If you’re an author, this is hard, because we’ve been taught to save the crescendo of the story until the final chapter. You don’t want to do that in an elevator pitch. You want to lead with the tease that will pull the consumer/reader in.

When would you use an elevator pitch?

You might use it to promote yourself to the media, to book a speaking event, or to pitch a blogger. Or, you could use it in an ad. And when you look at some well-known ads/elevator pitches, you start to get a sense of why it matters. FedEx, for example, says: When it absolutely, positively needs to be there overnight. Boom. You get the benefits right up front. As well, it instills a bit of fear because the implication is: if you use the other guys, your package may be sitting in a warehouse in Houston for a few days and you’ve lost the deal.

Components of a great elevator pitch

All elevator pitches have particular relevance to them, but for the most part, every elevator pitch must:

  • Have emotional appeal. Scary is good.
  • Offer to help
  • Give insight
  • Be timely
  • Matter to your reader!

We Love Stories

People remember more when you tell a story. If you’ve ever watched America’s Got Talent, you know this is true. There was a kid on there, about 14, I think. When he was 6 he lost his eyesight but a revolutionary surgery got him back his vision. When he got up and sang it was magnificent and when he got the Golden Buzzer (which is a great thing), I cried. Through his story, the viewer became emotionally attached to the outcome. Viewers will now remember this kid, because of his story.

If you’re an author, you’ve already told a story in your book. But how can you whittle down this story to make it even more compelling?

Essential Elements of a Powerful Elevator Pitch

  1. Concise: Your pitch needs to be short, sweet, and to the point.
  2. Clear: Save your five-dollar words for another time. For your elevator pitch to be effective, you must use simple language any layperson can understand. If you make someone think about a word, you’ll lose them and the effectiveness of your elevator pitch will go right out the window as well.
  3. Passion: If you’re not passionate about your topic, how can you expect anyone else to be?
  4. Visual: Use words that bring visual elements to your reader’s mind. It helps to make your message more memorable and brings the reader into your story.
  5. Stories: As I mentioned earlier, people love stories. It’s the biggest element of the elevator pitch: tell the story. I also find that when the pitch is woven into the story, it often helps to create a smoother presentation.
  6. What’s the worst that could happen? So, if someone doesn’t buy your product, read your book or use your service.

How to Craft Your Killer Elevator Pitch

  • Write it down: Start by writing a very short story so you can tell the story of your service, book, or product in two paragraphs. This will get the juices flowing. If you’re an author, this will be excruciating. Because I’m asking you to take your 100,000-word book and whittle it down to two paragraphs. But I promise you as you do this exercise, you’ll find you’ll start to see why it’s important to pull only the most essential elements from your story to craft your elevator pitch.
  • Make a list: Write down 10 to 20 things that your product, service or book does for the reader. These can be action statements, benefits, or book objectives.
  • Record yourself: Next, record yourself and see how you sound. I can almost guarantee you that you will not like the first few drafts you try. That actually is a really good thing. If you like the first thing that you write, it probably won’t be that effective. Recording yourself will help you listen to what you’re saying and figure out how to fine-tune it.
  • Rest: I highly recommend that you give yourself enough time to do your elevator pitch. Ideally, you want to let it rest overnight, if not longer. Remember, the elevator pitch is the most important thing that you will be creating in your marketing package. You want to make sure it’s just right.

Finally, remember that if you’re like everyone else, you will likely get ignored. Don’t be afraid to be different or to shake things up. Also, learn to shock your consumer, through the use of an unusual fact or by getting them to imagine something. I did that in the beginning of this piece when I said that goldfish beat us in attention span. This works well for authors who write fiction.

If you’re ever stuck trying to figure out your elevator pitch, consider invoking a strong tie to your audience. Stir up their imagination.  Invite them into the world you want them to enter Like the kid who got the golden buzzer.

So How Do You Come Out On Top?

Worry less. Especially about what other people think as you’re working on your pitch. To be memorable you’ve got to take chances. We admire the risk takers, don’t we? Largely, because we wish we could do the same thing, or take similar risks. And that’s the thing about a good pitch. You may have to take the chance and be different, because we know that if a message is too similar, and many are, it’ll go unnoticed.

If your message is going to survive in an 8-second world, you need to remind yourself that details don’t matter when it comes to a short, compelling pitch. What matters is that you pull people in, and keep their attention.

Now that you have my inside information on getting – and keeping – attention, are you ready for big media? If you want to build your reputation, your business and your exposure, then I’d love to help! Find out how you stand up to today’s market and can next level your success with my proven strategies. Click here to get started!


  1. Joe Dougherty

    This sounds like a good way to get my book out.

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Thanks for reading! We’d love to hear how it goes!

  2. Penny Sansevieri

    I’ll be sure to take a look at your post!



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