Full disclosure: an elevator pitch doesn’t require an actual elevator. The reason for its name is that you should be able to deliver it in the amount of time it takes to complete a short elevator ride.
What is an elevator pitch?
An elevator pitch (sometimes called an elevator speech) is a 30-60 second speech that explains who you are, what you’ve done, and what you want to do, without getting too detailed. This personal sales pitch, if done well, creates a positive and memorable first impression that could even lead to a job interview.
At first, this can seem overwhelming. How do you condense your past, present and future into a speech consisting of a few sentences? Luckily, you can craft an explanatory, memorable elevator speech by following these seven steps.
1. Discover who you are and what you do
You can’t make a pitch without knowing who you are and what you want to do. Take some time to think about it, and define it by physically writing it down. You can go a little crazy here and write as much as you’d like.
Consider your past achievements and how they have contributed to who you are now, even if it’s just a small contribution. Also, write down the standard information like where you went to college, what you majored in and any work experiences you might have had. Don’t worry if your list is really comprehensive and long; we’ll work on narrowing it down to some key points as we go.
2. Think about your why
Elevator pitches are a great way to make connections and get your foot in the door with recruiters, but you want to make sure what you’re saying accurately reflects your values and why you want to do a specific job. It’s never fun to get stuck in a job you don’t enjoy; finding your “why” will help you narrow down your options into a position that accurately reflects what’s important to you. When making your elevator pitch, connections will be able to understand your values and know immediately if you would be a good fit for a specific position.
3. Get specific
Now that you’ve figured out your who, what and why, it’s time to start boiling everything down. An elevator pitch should be short and sweet and should highlight your best attributes. After writing everything down, start going through your list and lump similar items together and look for specific instances that prove your worth. Consider any projects you’ve managed, groups you put together, or specific results you’ve achieved you can communicate easily in an elevator pitch. What’s your unique selling proposition?
At this point, you should really consider your why as you pick out specific scenarios. What things have you done that embody who you want to be? Make sure those are a key part of your pitch.
4. Get rid of anything that isn’t transferable
Now it’s time to narrow down even more by weeding out skills that aren’t transferable to the position you want. If you’re vying for a job as a tax accountant, you probably don’t need to include how you helped improve sales during an internship in your speech. Keep your elevator pitch limited to transferable skills ideal for the position you want.
5. Add something memorable to your elevator pitch
The last thing you want to add to your now narrowed down list is a memorable fact about yourself. Look for something truly unique that helps you stand out. It doesn’t have to be work related, just something that will help whoever you’re networking with remember you in the future.
6. Put it all together
Now that you have your short list of skills, achievements, and a memorable fact, it’s time to put it into a comprehensible format that’s easy to remember. There are a few ways you can do this: you can list items chronologically, by order of importance and relevance, or by order of your favorite. Really, the ideal order is the one that flows well and you can easily remember.
Once you have your order set, write it down on a cheat sheet. Then go over it several times until you have it memorized.
7. Time it (with a friend)
After all that work, you finally have your elevator speech memorized and ready to go. Now it’s time to practice by finding a friend who can watch you and time how long your speech is. This creates a more realistic scenario for you to practice your pitch. Ideally, it will be between 30 and 60 seconds.
Also, make sure you’re relaxing into your speech and not rushing through it. When you do get in the moment in a real elevator pitch scenario, it’s likely the pressure will make you talk quickly; it’ll be easier to keep your speed under control if you’re aware of it.
If you implement these 7 steps, you’ll have a good elevator pitch that you can use at networking events, like job fairs, helping you build relationships with potential employers and mentors.
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Shirley Claude is a Business Development Director for Surgent CPA Review. Shirley is a graduate of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and holds a master’s degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix. Before joining Surgent, Shirley worked in business development for an education technology company overseeing East Coast growth.