Imagine you are on an elevator with your next manager or someone who could connect you to your next opportunity. You have about 30 seconds of their attention to showcase what you have to offer before they walk off into the lobby. Your elevator pitch is what you will say to earn their interest and enlist their help in your transition. In networking, interviewing and in venture capital or angel investing pitches, you only have a few brief moments to provide someone with a compelling overview of who you are and what you’re all about before the conversation moves on. While you might have more than 30 seconds, you should try to keep this “pitch” under a minute.
Your elevator pitch needs to do four things:
- Summarize your background and experience
- Convey the impact and accomplishments you’ve had professionally
- Explain where you’d like to go next in your career
- Tell the listener how they can help you get there
Have a clear ask: You need to give your audience a clear picture of what you’re looking for or you risk losing the opportunity to get their help. Most people enjoy helping others, so make it as easy as possible for them to do so. “I need a job” is a bad ask because it doesn’t give the listener any direction; “I’m interested in this job position from XYZ Co; do you know anyone there?” is a much better ask.
Focus on their benefits: A good pitch clearly conveys how an employer could benefit from your skills and abilities—how you can help them grow, manage risk, improve performance, etc. You want to communicate the benefits from their perspective because they are the audience that needs to be persuaded to purchase what you’re selling. Avoid statements that focus on how you would benefit (e.g., you want a promotion or a higher salary). If it’s not clear why part of your pitch helps your potential employer, rework it from their perspective.
Kill the jargon: One of the primary audiences for your elevator pitch will be people who aren’t intimately familiar with the details of your field, so write the pitch for their understanding. Eliminate jargon, acronyms, and other technical terms that can be a barrier to their help. Err on the side of simplicity; you can always use more technical language in the conversation after the other person has demonstrated that they can handle the terminology.
Craft the wording: An elevator pitch must be carefully scripted so that it can be delivered effectively each time you have the opportunity to deliver it. Write out your script word-for-word in order to make sure that your language is clear and concise. Then practice it over and over until it becomes natural and something that you can be flexible with when talking to people in various situations and circumstances.
Eli Howayeck (MBA, Kellogg School of Management), Founder and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts, is passionate about helping motivated people achieve their career, educational, or personal goals and helping businesses, large and small, overcome a variety of challenges facing their business.