What do you do?
It’s amazing how hard that seemingly innocuous question can be to answer effectively when you’re unprepared. And the answer you give may just have a lasting effect on your future career or current business. If your elevator pitch, a short and clear statement about what you offer professionally, is nonexistent, weak or confused, you may be missing networking and employment opportunities.
What exactly is an elevator pitch?
At its heart, an elevator pitch is a brief sales message. You’re selling yourself, your product, or service in about 70 words—approximately the 30–60 seconds it takes to ride an elevator.
Career consultant Debra Cruz tells us that an “elevator pitch is an important element to your branding, and an essential piece in building business relationships. A concise, intentional, practiced theme conveys the message to the appropriate recipient. This professional self-introduction can have several versions depending on the audience and your current status of student, graduate, or a seasoned professional.”
What goes into a good elevator pitch?
Put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re talking to, someone who may hear many such introductions during the course of a day and especially at networking events. You’re going to need to really impress that person to capture their attention and leave a lasting mark.
Clearly explain why you wish to connect, what you do and how you can solve their problem or add value.
Target your speech for the prospect and your objective. Don’t use your sales speech when your goal is to partner with that company.
Engage them with eye contact, a sincere smile, and a strong handshake. Be upbeat, polite, and positive.
Have a call to action and offer your business card (or resume) at the end of the encounter. Remember to thank them for their time.
The structure of an elevator pitch in 3 parts
Cruz also tells us that elevator pitches have three key areas that can be addressed: Who you are, your work experience, and your future goals.
For a student attending a job fair, for example, the components of an elevator pitch would be:
Who you are: I'm a senior at Azusa Pacific University graduating in May with a bachelor's degree in journalism.
Experience: While attending APU I interned on the campus newspaper for three years and loved the excitement of sharing campus topics.
Future: After graduation I'm interested in working for a major newspaper and learning more about how the digital news is being transformed. I’d gain a great deal from your perspective. Are you available for an informational interview?
An elevator pitch from an established professional can be very different, especially when they are not looking for a job.
Who you are: I am currently a staff writer with the LA Times and enjoy working on reporting local government news.
Experience: My career began six years ago as a researcher for the Times, gathering facts for the lead writer. I was promoted after two years when my articles were recognized on social blogs.
Future: I am currently taking advanced courses to gain in-depth knowledge about digital news reporting. One day I'd like to teach college students. I am open to expanding my experience in journalism and would consider opportunities to enhance my knowledge. May I call you to learn more about your career path as a writer or to learn more about your company?
Examples of real-life elevator pitches
In her LinkedIn post, Aaron Fulk, founder and CEO of B2B content and social media company Lillian James Creative, asked readers to leave their elevator pitches as comments. Here are some of the best:
Carlissa Riddle, Hotel and Venue Sourcing Specialist at Global Cynergies
I help companies and associations locate and secure hotel and venue space in any location worldwide based on their specific needs for meetings/incentive trips/conventions & exhibitions at no cost. If you need assistance securing the best rates for 10+ sleeping rooms or meeting space, let's connect.
Tiffiney Baumgarden, founder Crossing Broadway
I am the founder of Crossing Broadway's List, an online directory of women-owned businesses and female professionals. If you want to be found you belong on Crossing Broadway.
Arielle Pouncil, CEO LionShield
LionShield Solutions provides a strategic and unique pathway for all minority and/or women owned businesses for certifications, access to resources and capital. Learn how you can benefit from a great resource in the Heart of America.
Lyndsey Gruber, PEPPR founder
PEPPR is a website that enables customers to plan and book group and private dining reservations with restaurants online. We partner with area event venues and restaurants to promote their group dining programs and streamline the entire event planning process for both restaurants and customers alike.
Your elevator is not memorized as a word for word speech, Cruz reminds us, but rather a carefully integrated conversation. It needs to be casual but professional, energetic, and memorable. Preparing and practicing gives you the confidence to state it perfectly without sounding robotic. Record yourself, practice in front of a mirror and say it out loud.