Tell me … what do you do, who you do it for, why you do it and what can you do for me?
And tell me quickly.
Such is the challenge of the elevator pitch – a personal marketing spiel seldom delivered in elevators, but a staple of networking.
A skillful elevator pitch can be the foundation upon which new professional relationships are built. A not-so-skillfull pitch will make sure you are forgotten -- or, even worse, leave a bad impression with a potentially valuable contact.
“The perfect elevator pitch should take no more than 30 seconds and incorporate your number of years of experience, areas of expertise, key skills and some key projects or brands that you have been associated with,” says Jessica Bedford of niche recruiting firm Artisan Creative. “If there is anything that makes you stand out, work that into your pitch as well.”
Yes, easier said than done – but doable, nonetheless.
Check out our expert tips for an effective elevator pitch
1. Make it Casual
When delivering your elevator pitch, you don’t want to sound like you’re reciting some historic speech you had to memorize in grade school.
“Say it first, then write it,” says career coach Judi Perkins. “Most elevator pitches are too formal and read like the top of a resume. It’s going to have slang, a run-on sentence or two – like you talk. It’s practiced, but it sounds like it’s not.”
Avoid trying to memorize your entire pitch. Instead, memorize the key points that you want to make each time you deliver it. This will leave room for improvisation and customizing the pitch for your audience. Practice your pitch often with different audiences.
2. Apply the Tweet Test
We live in an age of 140-character communication. Your elevator pitch should reflect that.
“Can you describe your company or product in roughly two sentences? If not, you might not be sure about what you want to sell, resulting in a lack of focus or clarity in your pitch,” says Kerri Garbis of Ovation Communication. “The 'tweet test' is good for finding that laser focus -- can you tweet what your company or product is about?”
3. Focus on the Relationship
Don’t come off like a “snake oil salesperson,” Garbis says.
“Make sure your elevator pitch doesn’t have the feel of a carnival barker by focusing on building a human relationship with the person you are speaking to,” she says.
Networking expert Patti DeNucci suggests losing the “pitch” concept altogether.
“Pitches are turnoffs for most people,” she says. “Think of it as your self-introduction -- a way of concisely letting people know who you are, what you do, who you serve, how they benefit and anything interesting that shows how you, or your product or service, is unique.”
4. Make it Relevant
Don’t just shake hands and launch into your pitch. You need to know a little about your audience. Ask what they do, or what they hope to gain from attending a particular event. With a little information about the other person, you can customize your pitch a bit to make it more relevant.
“Begin to build the relationship and put your pitch into their world,” Garbis says.
5. Close With a Question
End your elevator pitch by asking a question, says Neepa Parikh, assistant director of Golden Gate University’s Career Planning Office.
“Ask for advice, a contact, about the other person or whatever the situation calls for,” she said. “Ending your introduction with a question will jumpstart the conversation.”
But, Parikh adds, “It is never appropriate to end your elevator pitch asking for a job.”
At a minimum, ask if you can exchange business cards with the person – or connect with them on LinkedIn.