Also known as an elevator pitch, the elevator speech is your chance to tell a brief story about your professional self to potential employers, new networking contacts, or other people working in your field during the job search.
Although your elevator speech might not land you your dream job directly, it can keep you fresh in the mind of those you meet so that should the right opportunity come up, your name will pop into their mind. This is critical in today’s competitive job market where only a fraction of the jobs available ever make their way to an official job advertisement.
1) When to Give an Elevator Speech
If you take the time to develop and practice your elevator pitch, you will have it on tap when it can do the most good to make sure your introduction is a memorable one. In the job search, you never know when you might come into contact with someone that may have a lead on an important opportunity. However, a few places you might use it include:
- Professional networking events such as a convention in your field.
- Job fairs and other career events.
- During the job interview when you are asked to share about yourself.
- Social engagements such as charity dinners or even a block party.
- Informal places where you may come into contact with professionals such as the gym.
The point is that the elevator pitch is designed to convey the highlights of your professional persona to anyone that might be interested in knowing more about you, without having to reach for the words or worry about leaving out a major point.
2) Essential Elements of an Elevator Pitch
30 Seconds or Less
As you work on the different elements of your elevator speech, remember that you are shooting for something you can deliver in 30 seconds or less. In addition, you don’t want it to be so long that you sound rushed or anxious during your delivery. For most people, 150-250 words is about right in terms of length.
It may help to start with a slightly longer speech, then edit down redundancies or extraneous details until you get your speech trimmed down to an appropriate length. This allows you to choose your words very wisely without missing out on the key elements you need to get across.
Salutation and Attention Grabber
Starting your speech with a friendly greeting, followed by an attention grabbing detail is a good way to kick off your pitch. For example, if one of your proudest professional accomplishments is that you led your company in sales last year, this information is a great way to start your pitch.
Humor can also be effective, as long as it is light and appropriate for a professional context. Another option is to share a memorable moment that encouraged you to pursue your current career path.
The point of your attention grabber is to get the listener invested in wanting to learn more about you, so make it count!
Answer These Questions
If your goal is to write an elevator pitch that will be helpful for you during your job search, then your goal is to position yourself as qualified, enthusiastic, and ready for the job at hand. One way to make sure your pitch covers your bases is to answer these questions:
- What are the 3-5 most important facts about you that demonstrate your qualifications for the position?
- Why is this job the next job in your career journey?
- What is (at least) one thing that makes you stand out above the other candidates?
- What need does the employer have that you will fix if you are hired?
- What are your ultimate career goals?
An elevator pitch can also be tailored to other stages in your career, as a way to promote your company, or even sell a product. Of course, each type of speech would have different questions relative to the specific goal you have in mind.
Engage Your Listener
Remember that your listener is a person too. End your speech by engaging them with an open ended question to find out more about them. Then, listen closely for an opportunity to make a genuine human connection. Remember, even though your elevator pitch is mostly about you, it will ideally lead to a meaningful conversation that is mutually enlightening.
Hand Over Your Business Card
If you are in the job search and seeking employment in just about any position other than an entry level job, you should have business cards ready to hand out to potential networking contacts. Sure, most of us are using electronic communication and online social media to stay connected, but none of that matters if right now isn’t a good time to enter your information into a cell phone.
If you want to go the extra mile, incorporate a tagline into your elevator pitch and include it on your business card to remind the reader of your interaction and reinforce your memorable meeting.
3) Tips for an Impactful Delivery
Balance Promotion and Personality
The goal of your elevator speech is ultimately to sell yourself. That means it has to be positive, persuasive, and memorable. You don’t have to be bashful or humble, but you should balance your pitch with elements that highlight your personality, values, and charisma.
Remember, this is an opportunity to make an impression as a person, not a robot. People connect more when they sense that you are being genuine and have something to offer beyond your checklist of qualifications. Try to smile during your delivery when it feels natural, and when it is your turn to listen, do so actively and sincerely.
Of course, the more your practice your pitch, the more relaxed and confident you will feel delivering it on the spot. Ask friends and family to help you practice and also offer feedback to help you improve. In addition to practicing when you are prepared, ask them to surprise you by asking for your speech when you least expect it. This will help reinforce your recall and build your confidence.
Another way to hone your speech is to record yourself delivering it, and then adapt as necessary. This technique gives you a chance to hear how your pitch sounds to a listener to make sure your key ideas are communicated clearly.
Adapt to Your Audience
The perfect pitch to an industry insider at a convention may not be the right tone for someone you meet at a local social event. If you are in the job search, it makes sense to write and perfect a version of your elevator pitch that would be appropriate to use during an interview. However, once you have your delivery nailed down, try adapting it for other contexts.
For example, your interview version might have jargon from your field that will resonate and demonstrate expertise with your audience in an interview. However, using plain language would probably be more effective with a more general audience, such as someone you may meet at a dinner party who works in another field.