Picture this: You step into an elevator, and right after you steps in a well-dressed woman. She looks familiar, and as you squint your eyes you realize she is the CEO of the company where you’ve always wanted to work, a woman who you once met earlier in your career. She presses the button for floor 43. Can you tell her who you are, what your goals are, and leave a memorable impression before the elevator stops? The answer, of course, is yes – if you have a good elevator pitch!
This guide will give you the tools to craft a winning elevator pitch. It will take you through the elements of an elevator pitch, how to draft and practice the pitch, and how to deliver it successfully to anyone, whether it’s the CEO in the elevator or a person you bump into at a networking event.
What is an elevator pitch?
An elevator pitch is a short speech — between 30 seconds and two minutes, or the length of a typical elevator ride – that gives the listener a lasting impression of who you are, what you do, and what your goals are. You might give your elevator pitch to a person you meet at a networking event, a potential client, or even to someone you meet in an actual elevator.
An elevator pitch isn’t a verbal cover letter. You’re not telling your whole life story, or spilling out your 20-year vision for your career. It’s more like an executive summary – but a short, snappy one that keeps listeners engaged, leaves a lasting impression, and hopefully leaves them a bit curious.
What are the critical components of an elevator pitch?
An elevator pitch should answer three main questions:
- What do you do?
- What distinguishes you?
- What are your goals?
These main points should be woven into a brief, but compelling, story. “The #1 thing to remember about an elevator pitch is that you’re offering yourself as a solution to a problem that needs to be solved,” says career coach Jenn Dewall. Think carefully about what needs the person you’re addressing might have, and how your unique skill set and goals can help meet those needs.
Which brings us to our next point: it’s critical to tailor your pitch to who you’re talking to. Your elevator pitch will always be slightly different depending on whether you’re talking to a potential client, a company where you’d like an employment opportunity or a prospective investor in your startup. When you brainstorm about how to give your elevator pitch to these different types of people, always keep that question in your head: “what problem does this person need to be solved?” and weave your personal narrative around that question.
How to draft an elevator pitch
Draft my elevator pitch? But won’t I be talking to people? Well, yes, generally your elevator is only spoken. Which is all the more reason to write down a script – or at least the outline of a script – so that you have something to organize your thoughts and lean back on when you’re giving your pitch. “Writing your elevator pitch on paper helps you take all your words and ideas and put them into a simple sentence structure,” says DeWall.
You already have your content and your storyline, so what’s left? First of all, start with something attention-grabbing. This might be an interesting statistic or fact about the problem you purport to solve. It might be a joke about your profession or way of working. It’s a snappy hook that will draw your listener’s attention in.
Go through what you do, what makes you unique, and what your goals are – in that order. Keep it short and snappy. You may feel the urge to elaborate on all the reasons you’re great, but resist it. Why? To hear someone talk about themselves for too long is boring. You want to keep the person you’re speaking to engaged and curious. Don’t reveal so much that they don’t have anything to ask questions about.
How to practice your elevator pitch
Say it out loud! And even better? Say it in front of other people. Practice with friends. Make your family sit through it. Attend networking events. Keep saying those words, so it will become automatic for you, and you won’t freeze in a stressful situation.
At the same time, always keep it fresh. “Be careful about regurgitating the same words, over and over,” says Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, master resume writer. “Keep your pitch fresh, and be natural in how, and to whom, you are delivering your words.”
How to deliver an elevator pitch successfully
It’s not just about your words – it’s also about how you present yourself. Your body language should project confidence and ease. “Introverts and extroverts need to be mindful of their body language to make a good impression,” says Dr. Lillian Glass, a body language expert. “You have to convey that you’re confident, that you’re an open person and that you’re the type of person that someone wants to work with or do business with.”
Standing up straight, making sure your head doesn’t tilt to the side or downwards, and giving a firm handshake are all body language tactics that Dr. Glass recommends to project confidence. And don’t forget to smile! “If you are not smiling, it sends the message that you are not happy or engaged,” Dr. Glass says. “You have to smile.”
Once you’ve given your pitch, engage your listener with a question. If you only have a short time with them, offer your email address or business card if they’d like to hear more. If you have a longer time to chat, you might choose to ask a question that ascertains how your work and vision fits into their goals. You also might ask if they have any ideas of people they could you could refer you to connect with.
Looking to perfect your elevator pitch or simply improve your public speaking skills for presentations, projects and more? Check out these additional resources: