Elevator Pitches on Fast Rides: Factor Elevator Speed and Type into Your Message

Delivering your elevator pitch should take between 30 and 60 seconds, but what’s realistic on a modern elevator ride? You’d need to travel at least eight floors in an uninterrupted ride to successfully deliver your 30-second elevator pitch, and higher for longer pitches. Elevators in modern high-rise office buildings, specifically traction elevators, on average travel four seconds per floor, and can reach much faster speeds at high performance.

Elevator pitches —known as opportunities to present an idea, business, or even market your self in short, impactful ways—have multiple histories. Elisha Graves Otis, an elevator inventor from the 1850s, is said to have taken an elevator ride and cut the elevator’s rope hoists to prove the reliability of his new safety device. Here, the elevator was the best, and perhaps only, way to captivate his audience’s attention to his invention. Others have used elevators to access hard-to-reach (and time-pressed) executives who share a building but may not share other office real estate. The elevator became a place to pitch media executives, for example, with story ideas or movie scripts.

What remains true for elevator pitches is that they deliver a clear, precise message to a specific audience in a short span of time, or the length of an elevator ride. Pitch experts recommend elevator pitches last anywhere from 15 seconds to two minutes. Yet the speed of elevators has increased dramatically since the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Now, an elevator can ascend up to 2,000 feet at a rate of more than 500 ft/minute. One World Trade Center in New York, NY, is home to one of the world’s fastest elevators, ascending at approximately 23 miles per hour—that’s about 0.4 seconds per floor.

Elevator speeds vary based on numerous factors, most crucially what type of elevator you occupy. Two main types of elevators are Hydraulic Elevators and Traction Elevators. Each type uses different mechanics to function and, as a result, have variable ride times.

Hydraulic Elevators

Hydraulic elevators are most commonly found in low- and mid-rise buildings, reaching optimum efficiency up to 5-6 floors high. Hydraulic elevators utilize a pressure-based system of pumps and cylinders, lubricated by oil, to operate. These elevators are both the easiest and typically most affordable to install. However, hydraulic elevator speeds are consistently slower on average—about half the speed of their counterpart, the traction elevator: typical travel time on a hydraulic elevator is 100 ft/min, or about 8 seconds per floor. Additionally, elevator rides in a hydraulic elevator might include more ambient noise from the elevator’s surrounding mechanical features.

Traction Elevators

Traction elevators utilize gears and hoists to operate the elevator. These elevator types are almost exclusively the choice for high-rise buildings, or Class “A” buildings, known for high-volume traffic, architectural sophistication, and demand for fast rides. Traction elevators are not only more energy efficient, but they perform best in speed and environmental experience. While on average traction elevators ascend 200 ft/min, or about 4 seconds per floor, they can reach dazzling speeds of 500 ft or more per minute in high-performance settings.

A great many conditions factor into timing your elevator pitch, beginning with elevator type and including how many stops the elevator makes. The average door opening/closing time, for example, is between 2-4 seconds, and the time it takes for elevator doors to remain open can last approximately 8-10 seconds. If you’re traveling on a record-making, high-speed elevator like the ones found in China you’ll find that deceleration may take longer to adjust for in-cab pressure, as well.

In today’s high-rise office buildings, your elevator rides move you and their occupants more swiftly than ever before. Our best advice for timing your elevator pitch is to assess the situation: consider what type of building you’re in, how far you’re going, and how many stops are expected. When you tailor your pitch to factor fast ride times, you’re most likely to not only succeed in your messaging but hopefully leave room for a response.