When was the last time you were in an elevator with someone else who didn’t know you? In 2021, the answer to that question is likely, “Not in the last year.” However, the need to have a professional elevator pitch has never been greater. Learn what an elevator pitch is and tips to create an ideal one.
What Is an Elevator Pitch?
An elevator pitch, sometimes called the “30-second commercial” or a “personal commercial,” describes a well-thought-out and succinct way to introduce yourself. The origin of the term came from the idea that an upwardly mobile professional would have this pitch prepared in case they are riding in an elevator with a future boss, client or investor. In the short ride on the elevator, a stellar pitch could land you a promotion or a new opportunity. When done well, the listener has a clear understanding of your relevant background. The best pitches are memorable and spark interest in learning more.
Consider the Audience
Not all pitches should be the same. Consider why you need a pitch and when it might be used. While you are likely not riding in an elevator with Elon Musk to present your background as a manufacturing engineer, are you preparing for an interview, virtual job fair or your annual performance review meeting? Perhaps you will be playing tennis with your neighbor who works for a targeted company or you’ll soon have dinner with a family member who invests in small businesses. Identify your intended audience — such as a potential employer or someone who could refer you to someone else — and outline what would be of interest or relevant to that person.
Consider the Environment
The most effective pitches are customized based on where and how they will be used. A “personal commercial” for a casual setting, such as a neighborhood barbecue, should sound different than one for a professional networking event. Think through what you would appreciate and retain in different settings — and keep that in mind when crafting your pitch.
Components of an Elevator Pitch
Essentially, an elevator pitch has three components. Start with a sentence or two to introduce yourself. Next, communicate your purpose or why your background introduction is relevant to the listener. Then, close with a memorable hook, a request or question.
Elevator Pitch Examples
Here are some samples to guide you.
Example 1: In an interview for a sales role, you are asked either, “Tell me about yourself.” Or “Give me an overview of your background.”
“I have 10 years of sales experience, with a consistent increase in quota and significance of my client portfolio every year. I have worked diligently to ensure that I ranked in the top 10% for performance. I have always been impressed with Acme Co.’s quality and service — making it the leader in our industry. When I saw the opening for an Account Executive, I was very interested to learn how my background could help your continued growth for 2021.”
This pitch is ideal because it quickly communicates relevant experience, shows talent (growth and top 10%) and establishes purpose for pursuing the role (join the best in the industry).
Example 2: At a casual happy hour, you are introduced to someone who asks, “What do you do?”
“I run a career strategy and resume writing company called CS Advising. I feel fortunate that I can help my clients get better results with less stress during the often dreaded process of changing careers. What do you do?”
Example 3: At a professional networking event, you meet a peer at a respected company.
“Hi. I’m Mark, a product marketer with PDQ Co. I was really impressed with your CEO’s keynote and the advancements your team has made. The new initiative he discussed sounds aligned with my most recent work. Do you know if they are adding to that group?”
Common Pitfalls to Avoid
Long or complex sentences that leave the listener confused or bored. If your audience can’t understand, they certainly won’t know how to respond or remember you later. Be sure your pitch is short, clear and delivered in a warm and upbeat manner.
Sounding forced, like a sales pitch. An elevator pitch should be well thought out but should sound natural — how the best version of you would talk. Make sure you practice your pitch out loud. Get feedback from people you trust and even record yourself to get the best result.
Being rigid. Your pitch should be flexible. Whenever possible, customize your delivery to the audience and seek to engage or learn from them.
A famous quote from Maya Angelou summarizes it well: “People will forget what you said … but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The most effective elevator pitch is one that reflects your thoughtfulness, focus, relevance and also makes the listener feel valued and respected. By structuring your response, practicing it for a smooth delivery and being an active listener, you will maximize your potential when you deliver a stellar elevator pitch.
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