One of the most important elements in networking is the elevator speech (also known as the elevator pitch). This speech can be used in many situations, from pitching your skills and talents to a potential employer to outlining the services your company can provide for a potential client. For the job seeker, the idea behind the elevator speech is to present your qualifications and abilities – what you have to offer – in the time that it would take to ride the elevator to your chosen floor.
There are many different strategies for ways to prepare and present your elevator pitch. Here are a few of the most common tactics to create and deliver an effective 30–40 second speech that will get the listener’s attention and leave them wanting to continue the discussion outside of the elevator.
To create an effective elevator pitch, you should shoot for approximately 30–40 seconds in length, which translates to about 90 words or 10 sentences. The first thing to do is to develop a structure or general outline for your speech:
Begin with who you are (and what you do): Describe yourself and your company, show enthusiasm, and develop a “hook” to draw the reader in. Ideally, this hook will differ depending on your audience and may be something specific to their needs. For example, if you are seeking a position with a company that just completed a major merger/acquisition, you could begin your pitch with a statement or question referencing this recent news.
Tell the listener what you have to offer: Describe situations where you have made significant contributions or solved substantial problems in your career. To continue with the example from the previous bullet, you could mention your own experience following a merger and how you were able to assist in the transition, absorb new staff members, or coordinate workflow to handle additional customers.
Define the benefits: Share a story with the listener to solidify what you have to offer. Storytelling is an important form of communication and stories are always more powerful than a dry list of qualifications or achievements. An example of a “real world” scenario will present your capabilities in a concrete, easily understood fashion.
Leave the listener wanting more: Just as including a “hook” is an extremely important aspect of an effective elevator pitch, it’s equally imperative that you end the conversation leaving the listener wanting more. You must avoid ending the conversation with the audience thinking “So what?”. By focusing on the ways that you can improve the listener’s company, you should be able to keep their interest and by leaving the conversation open-ended, you will increase your chances of finishing the conversation at a later date.
After you’ve developed the general outline for your elevator pitch, take a red pen to it, mark it up, and iron out the details over multiple drafts. It’s almost impossible to design anything perfectly on the first try, so keep at it, get input from friends and colleagues, and revise the speech until you are confident that it presents you in a professional, friendly, and conversational light.
The old saying holds true, practice makes perfect. After you have drafted and revised your elevator pitch, practice it multiple times. Read it aloud to make sure that you don’t stumble over any words. Read your speech in front of the mirror to practice your presentation and eye contact, use friends and family to practice your delivery, and finally, record your speech and play it back to make sure that you maintain a consistent, pleasant, and professional tone throughout your elevator pitch.
There are differing opinions out there as to whether or not you should memorize your elevator speech. Without memorizing the pitch, there is the chance that you might forget key elements; however, reading your pitch off of index cards is no better, as it can result in a stilted, uncomfortable conversation, which is why I recommend developing a general structure or outline to use, but letting the conversation flow and develop organically.
After you have prepared, revised, and practiced your elevator speech, the only thing left to do is to test it out. Before delivering your pitch to a human being, try reciting your speech aloud the next time you’re in an elevator (this is best done when you’re the only one in the elevator) to make sure that your timing is right. Once you’re confident that your elevator pitch is ready, put it into action. As you deliver your speech the first few times, try to keep an eye on the listener and gauge their response. If you feel like your pitch might be missing the mark, don’t hesitate to try different tactics to keep the listener involved, and if you find yourself uncomfortable delivering your speech then consider joining a group like Toastmasters International to get more experience in public speaking.
Just as with many job search tactics, the elevator speech is not a magic bullet that will guarantee a job. However, when pairing an effective elevator pitch with a well-written resume and thorough job search strategy, you will significantly increase your chances of being hired. So the next time you’re on an elevator don’t just watch the floors ticking by waiting to get off, think of how you could use that time to make an excellent impression on the CEO from the company you’d love to work for, and who knows, you might just land your next great opportunity!