Essentially it’s a short summary about yourself and what you do, in the time it takes to ride an elevator. You have to be able to deliver and convince in that time frame. That’s the famous 30 second “elevator pitch”.
And it can be for anything. Finding a new job, going to a networking event, starting a sales relationship, etc.
Here’s the thing about an elevator pitch- you have one whether you know it or not.
Any time somebody asks you about your work, or asks what you do, you’re saying something… right?
And if you’re looking for a new job, your elevator pitch is big part of how you respond when they say, “tell me about yourself”.
If you’re at a networking event, your elevator pitch will be the information you share when somebody asks what type of work you do.
It’s your one and only chance to get their attention and set the tone for how they view the rest of what you tell them. That’s why it’s so important.
Note, if you prefer to learn this via video, here’s a YouTube tutorial I created. Check it out, and then review the steps below.
There are a few key pieces that your elevator pitch should contain. This is assuming you are looking for a job or looking to grow your network. If you’re trying to create an elevator pitch while working in sales, it’ll be a bit different and you should read the alternate method below this first method.
Here are the key pieces to creating a perfect elevator pitch…
The first piece of what you actually say needs to tell them who you are. This might include a bit about your background, what you do, what your skills and interests are, etc.
This is where you need to tailor your answer to fit the outcome you want.
If you describe yourself as an expert in finance, do you think people will pay attention to you on financial topics? Yes!
But what if you made yourself sound more like a generalist who knows a little about many areas, and finance is just one of them? Nobody is going to respect your opinion nearly as much, and they might not even remember you mentioned it.
That’s why it’s important to tailor your answer to fit the result you’re hoping to achieve and what you want to be known/remembered for.
To recap, the first part of your elevator pitch might sound like this example: “Hi, I’m Biron. I’m a Scientist with a background in chemistry. I specialize in research and development, and new product discovery.”
Now you want to get a bit more specific and draw their attention in.
What are you working on right now or what have you accomplished recently?
Here’s an example: “I currently work at Johnson & Johnson and my team is working on developing a new antibacterial cream that’s set to go into clinical trials this month.”
Now they know your expertise, and assuming it’s relevant to them, you’ve caught their attention and opened up the conversation.
This is why the first step was so important though… if you don’t decide what you want to be known for, and tailor your answer to emphasize those strengths, you’ve lost them!
Same goes for job interviews. If you’re applying to be a supervisor, don’t talk about how you love focusing on your individual goals. Talk about how you’re a good manager or how you take the lead on projects.
I can’t emphasize this enough- it’s all about deciding what you want your audience to remember you for. And you need to pick only one or two things. If you name more, they’ll assume you’re not particularly talented in any!
After the two steps above, you need to conclude your elevator pitch and this is your chance to be upfront and tell them your objective. Why are you in this conversation to begin with?
If you’re at a networking event because you’re starting a job search soon, say something like this: “So, I’m interested in meeting people with similar backgrounds, and I’m considering changing jobs this year so I’m curious to learn about the work environments in different companies.”
It’s rare that someone would turn down the chance to hear about how another company does things, so you’ve offered a pretty good trade-off!
They might also ask why you’re considering a job change. Either way, you’ve opened up multiple ways for them to expand the conversation.
Let’s recap and look at complete examples of elevator pitches based on the steps above:
“Hi, I’m Biron. I’m a Scientist specializing in chemistry and new product discovery. I currently work at Johnson & Johnson and my team is working on developing a new antibacterial cream that’s set to go into clinical trials this month. So, I’m interested in meeting people with similar backgrounds, and I’m also considering changing jobs this year so I’m hoping to learn about the work environments in different companies.”
The method above can work for pretty much anybody, but it’s really designed to create the best elevator pitch possible for job seekers (hey, CareerSidekick is a job search blog!). But if you own a business or you work in sales, you should be much more direct…
I recently came across a great formula and have yet to find anything better in terms of a very specific, direct elevator speech. I suggest you try it if you want a more direct approach.
The basic formula:
I help (specific target customers) who want to get (specific desired result) without having to (unwanted or inconvenient steps). Do you know any (specific target customers) who wants to get (specific desired result)?
I help job seekers who want to advance their careers and find a job in 60 days or less, without having to memorize hundreds of answers or spend hours studying. Do you know any job seekers who want to find a job in 60 days or less?
Use a definitive period of time if possible. Don’t just say “fast.” And narrow down your market as much as possible. I didn’t say “working professionals.” I said “job seekers who want to advance their careers.”
I help restaurants with multiple locations organize their customer data and boost their sales up to 10%, without having to spend any additional time or money on advertising. Do you know any restaurants with multiple locations that want to boost their sales up to 10%?
This direct approach could be adapted back to your job search too. Let’s look at one final example of this second method for a job search:
“I’m an R&D Scientist who helps companies use their existing patents and technologies to develop new skincare products. Right now at Johnson & Johnson I’m finishing a successful project for an antibacterial cream and I’m looking for my next challenge. Do you know any companies that are involved in discovering and developing new skincare products?”
We covered the content of your elevator pitch, but what about delivery?
You need to be convincing and memorable. Without this, the content won’t matter.
People want to know they are talking to a good, honest, reliable person that they can trust and perhaps even like.
They won’t get this by looking at your resume.
You need to open up by having great body language and be confident and excited about what you’re saying. You have to appear like you know they’ll be interested. You cannot be hesitant here so practice.
And pay attention to body language too. Smile, look confident, and stand or sit up straight. When you’re slouched over, not only are you not using the full potential of your brain (yes, there’s been research), you also look untrustworthy.
Who doesn’t like to hear that their own background or story is interesting? Or that you feel their opinion is needed on something!
So, here are ways to make the other person feel important, which will help you be more memorable and convincing to them!
When you’re nervous or anxious, you breathe with short, shallow breaths in the upper chest.
Here’s how you should breathe:
Use your stomach and take long, deep breaths. I had to teach myself this, it didn’t feel natural at first. I couldn’t figure out how to breathe in a way that’d get my stomach to go in and out, at least not when I was paying attention and “trying.”
I was filling my upper chest with as much air as possible but my stomach wasn’t moving. That’s not the right way.
Practice, figure it out, and then use it as a way to relax when you’re waiting for a job interview or a meetings.
Nothing comes out perfect the first time. Having the best elevator pitch is useless if you don’t practice. Give it a test run a few times and make sure you’re hitting the key points and keeping it short. 30 or 60 seconds is about as long as your elevator speech should take.
You only get one chance to make a first impression. If you sound unsure of yourself and don’t have a clear story of what it is you do, you’re going to be less convincing and immediately turn people off!
I’ve learned this myself the hard way. I’ve met new people, mentioned five different things I do, and just came across like I was average (or worse) at all five. People want to meet experts that they can feel confident in, not generalists that know a bit about everything but can’t really lead the way on any given topic!
Your elevator pitch needs to come out smoothly and be designed to share your strengths and facts that relate to the direction you’re heading in. And that doesn’t happen without practice.
Even if you outline an average elevator pitch and just practice it a few times in your head, it will be so much better than making it up on the spot!