“What do you do?” It’s one of the most common questions we get in our day to day lives, yet so few of us have a great answer that we could answer in the time it would take us to ride an elevator with someone. We lean on vague job titles and short responses. Or, we create a jumbled response that takes too long and leaves the listener bored and tuned out.
Entrepreneurs and business owners know how to deliver a targeted elevator speech (perhaps more commonly known as an elevator pitch) to customers, investors or venture capitalists for funding. But you don't have to be a small business owner (or need an actual elevator speech opportunity) to have a reason to have a perfect pitch in hand.
When Should You Use an Elevator Pitch?
While an elevator pitch is a tool for salespeople and public relations professionals pitching products and services, you can also use them in other situations. Maybe you're introducing your organization to potential clients or customers, maybe you're selling your grand idea to an authority figure in your company, or maybe you're just explaining to people what you do.
In job interviews the same question for a job seeker takes a slightly different form with the ubiquitous opening question “Can you tell me a little about yourself?”
Both of these questions give you an opportunity to create a good and memorable impression, but only if you’re adequately prepared with a good elevator pitch. There are a few steps that can help you in crafting a pitch that will open doors, but first a reminder of the simple criteria that make up a good elevator pitch:
- 20-30 seconds long
- It’s clear
- It’s memorable
Ready? Grab a pen and paper and let’s create an elevator pitch so you’re always ready with an answer you’re proud of.
What Are the Four Steps to Perfecting Your Pitch?
1. Start with a Basic Recipe
You want your elevator pitch to be adaptable to the person you’re speaking with and the situation, so I like to start with a basic recipe and then build on from there. This helps to ensure that what you’re saying is clear, concise, and gets across the most important information in a limited time span.
The core of an elevator speech will include: “I help (who do you help?) by doing (how do you help them?) so that (why is this important?).”
For example, “I help brands maximize their digital marketing by using analytics around all key digital strategies such as SEO, AdWords, and social media, to optimize performance so they can reach their customers and increase their sales profitably."
2. Make it Memorable
What we’ve come up with in step 1 is clear, but maybe it's not the most memorable...yet. Anyone can throw buzzwords or acronyms around, but the key thing to remember is that in a great elevator pitch, no one is going to remember or care about a bullet point list of your accomplishments. Make it more personable, relatable, and most importantly, memorable by adding in a story or an anecdote, and a couple of compelling highlights.
Something is inherently memorable if it is unique, so be sure not to be generic about your strengths and capabilities. If you will be presenting numbers (such as your sales process for example), be sure to quickly contextualize what you do against the rest of the crowd. In other words, provide a unique selling proposition that speaks for itself. Instead of just saying you were able to increase sales by 200 percent year-over-year, explain that in contrast to the average performer on the sales team who typically grows their accounts by 25% year over year, you were among the top three performers in your cohort.
Or, here's another example:
“I didn’t initially intend to get into this field but as I was working on a marketing launch, I noticed that a huge chunk of our budget was going to digital marketing but we didn’t have a way to accurately understand how that affected our sales. I created tools for my team to use to track and optimize our campaign performance. After using them during the launch we saved approximately $50k, which helped boost our overall profitability significantly. Since then I’ve taken my process and rolled it out to teams all over the company.”
3. Tailor it to Your Audience
Surprise! An effective elevator pitch is not about you. Like any good marketing message, your elevator pitch is about the customer and how you can help them. If you have information about the person you’re speaking to, use it to tailor your elevator pitch. In a job interview or when you’re speaking with someone from a company you’d really like to work for, you likely know some of the pain points they are experiencing that they need someone to step in and solve for them. Rather than leave your elevator pitch broad while trying to be everything to everyone, highlight a couple of your past experiences that demonstrate that you’re exactly what they’re looking for.
For example, if they have a really fragmented department and they’re looking for someone who will not just do the job but create a highly functioning team, you might say:
“In focusing on our analytics I also had the opportunity to build an entire team from the ground up. I focused on bringing in the right combination of skillsets and helped create open communication from day 1, which really led to one of the most productive and functional team environments.”
4. Decide What’s Next
If you’re looking for a new career opportunity (or perhaps you’re speaking to a potential employer), you’ll want to finish your story with a glimpse of what’s next. Spend at least a few seconds on what your goals are and what the next step is that you’re looking for at this point in your career.
If you’re networking, for example, you’d want to emphasize exactly what you’re looking for by saying:
“I’m now really focused on finding a future opportunity within a startup or fast-growing small company, that needs to improve their ROI in the digital space and create a strong team, but do so quickly and with a limited budget.”
Just remember that you are trying to make an impression during a short period of time. A great elevator speech doesn't happen. Remember to think about the following two points:
1. Who is listening to your message?
2. What will compel them to remember you while also serving the points about who you are and what you can do for them?
Nobody is a natural at this so plan on practicing your pitch. You will have to do it several times before it may start feeling natural, especially if you're not someone who is naturally a self-promoter, extroverted or if you're simply not used to talking about yourself.
Following these steps will help you craft an effective elevator speech that will capture your audience's attention. Whether you have a moment when you're handing over your business card, or you have the opportunity to give a short summary of yourself during a conversation in an actual elevator ride, or you're a job seeker at an actual networking event, its a good idea to have a good pitch ready in hand for people to take in during a limited time span.
Example Elevator Pitches
Your elevator pitch might look different depending on what your end goal is (read: finding a job or promoting yourself, business or service in some way). Here are three examples based on different scenarios.
1. "I recently graduated from college with a degree in communications. I've had several internships with online magazines as an editor, and eventually, became the editor of my college newspaper. I'm looking for a job that will put my skills as an editor to work."
2. "I run a travel agency that's adventure-oriented for students and young professionals looking to travel on a budget. We offer anyone ages 18 to 30 payment plans, stress-free booking and a team of experts to plan their vacation. If you know anyone looking to travel on a budget, feel free to connect them with me."
3. "My name is Andrea, and after years of working for other startups, I'm taking the plunge and developing my own app. The app allows anyone to rent a car by the hour, without having to go through a rental company. They can pick the car up, unlock it and drop it back off all with the app."
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