How To Write An Awesome Elevator Pitch (With Examples)

By David Luther - Mar. 11, 2021
Articles In Guide

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Ah, the elevator pitch – or speech – a timeless business networking staple.

It’s the 30-second speech that summarizes who you are, what you do, and why you’re worth having a conversation with. The idea is that you should be able to tell someone all of that in the time it takes to ride the elevator.

“Your first objective during an elevator pitch is to get them to like you,” says James S. O’Rourke, a professor of management at the University of Notre Dame.

“Because if they don’t like you, they might just take the stairs next time.”

We’re here to explain the key elements of an effective elevator pitch, walk you through the process of writing your own, and show you some examples of elevator pitches for different situations.

What Is an Elevator Pitch?

An elevator pitch is a 30-second speech that gives a quick summary of your professional background. It can also be a brief speech about a product, service, or company.

For the scope of this article, though, we’ll be talking about personal elevator pitches used to sell yourself, give at networking events, use at interviews, and more.

The goal of an elevator pitch isn’t to immediately snag a job; it’s to generate enough interest to land a second, more thorough conversation. Elevator pitches are short, and if you’re writing yours down to practice, aim for around 75 words.

With an effective elevator pitch, you’ll have an easier time introducing yourself professionally and creating more connections within your field.

Your elevator speech, while not necessarily life and death, is a crucial piece of your job-seeking toolkit.

Whether it’s bumping into a hiring manager on an elevator or just a former classmate in a Starbucks – being able to sell yourself quickly and succinctly is the difference between an awkward “see ya” and “Hey, so there’s this position at my company…”

This is how you sharpen that pitch. This is how you nail that introduction.

How to Write an Elevator Pitch

Your elevator pitch should answer three main questions:

  • Who are you?

  • What do you do?

  • What are you looking for?

With that in mind, let’s turn to the step-by-step process for writing and delivering an elevator pitch:

  1. Introduce yourself. If you’re just meeting someone, smile, shake their hand, and say “it’s nice to meet you.” If you’re in a bigger group or you’re asked directly about yourself, you can skip this step and get right into talking about who you are.

  2. Write about what you do. You can give a job title, but it’s far more interesting to describe what you do. If you’re a recent graduate, you’ll talk more about your time in school, whereas a seasoned professional would highlight their most interesting and important work experience or expertise.

    When you start writing, don’t limit yourself — you’ll probably end up with too much at first, but that’s when you can begin to cut unnecessary stuff or leave room for alternate topics depending on your audience.

    Think of those accomplishments on your resume that you’re most proud of when you’re writing this part. Just remember, your elevator pitch has to be a coherent narrative, so make sure one point flows into the next naturally.

  3. Describe what you want. This is the “pitch” part of the equation. Whether you’re after a job, an internship, or just another valuable person to add to your network, there needs to be an “ask” in there somewhere.

    You’ve already set the scene for who you are; now it’s time to turn the focus to your audience. Think of ways that you can benefit them or their company because if you have nothing to offer, they have no reason to engage you in conversation a second time.

  4. Always be closing. Not really, but definitely finish with a strong call to action. Don’t be vague or confusing; clearly state what you’d like to happen next.

    Whether that’s asking to be kept in mind for job opportunities or just asking if you can follow up with an email, make sure your listener knows what you want. It can be intimidating when you’ve just met a person, so keep your “ask” low-pressure and low-effort on their part.

  5. Thank the listener. If they accept your request, thank them. Even if they don’t give you a concrete “yes,” thank them for taking the time to listen. It’s just good manners.

Identify Your Goal and Explain What You Do

The first part begins with asking yourself a few questions about your goals and answering them.

This step of the process – focusing on yourself and determining your goals – is more difficult than it seems, but defining that will streamline everything from writing your resume summary statement to answering the most common interview questions.

Example Intro to Your Elevator Pitch

“Hello, I’m [your name]. I’m a writer with five years of professional experience in the online content writing industry and I’m looking for opportunities in the San Francisco area with both online and print companies.”

That bit would take maybe ten seconds.

You’ll use the rest of your time to get across special skills and specific ways you can help a potential employer.

Get Your Selling Point Across

This doesn’t have to be complicated – just mention something about yourself that adds value to your description.

A phrase you might hear for this is your unique selling proposition – that’s just a fancy way of saying what makes you special and desirable.

Example Intro to Your Elevator Pitch Refined

“Hello, I’m [your name]. I’m a writer with five years of professional experience in the online content writing industry. My editors applaud my endless curiosity and ability to chase any lead – and always in time to make deadlines! I’m looking for opportunities in the San Francisco area with both online and print companies.”

That’s another five seconds.

And you’ve added a bit more value to yourself by describing personal qualities that have industry relevance – and you’ve also done so by letting others compliment you. That says why you’re a qualified candidate – but was it really unique?

Engage Your Listener

Since you’re selling yourself to your listener – and make no mistake, that’s what you’re doing – you need to tailor what you say to your market.

Elevator speeches are sometimes called elevator pitches because you’d use a similar format to pitch your product or company to the listener – another good reason to master the skill.

Think about the last time you heard a sales pitch. Did it sound rehearsed? Do you think the salesperson gave the same spiel to everyone?

It’s a turn off. So when you’re giving your speech, consider your audience and adjust accordingly:

  • How big is the company?

  • What differentiates it from other companies?

  • How would you fit in?

You can also ask them a question that requires a response. It shows them that you’re thinking about them. And since they’ve been wondering “what’s in it for me?” the whole time, that’s the right step.

Full Example Elevator Pitch

“Hello, I’m [your name]. I’m a writer with five years of professional experience in the online content writing industry. I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades – my boss pretty much sends everything she doesn’t understand my way! Since this is such a fast-moving industry, I keep myself relevant by learning new skills. So many companies have needs for online content but don’t want to hire an agency, so I’m looking for a place that needs someone with my skillset in video marketing and Photoshop. I hear you manage your own practice, have you seen any success with video marketing?”

Oh, well done, you sly dog.

You just told them what you do, that other people look to you for challenging tasks, and that you’re on the cutting edge. You also suggested the need for someone like you – you may have even just created the position.

Who You’re Writing an Elevator Pitch For

Pretty much anyone who will listen, but in particular it’s for people who can help you in some way. That sounds a little selfish, but that’s how it is.

To narrow it down, anyone who asks you the following gets your elevator pitch:

  • What do you do?

  • Can you tell me about yourself?

  • What makes you…you?

Common Elevator Pitch Mistakes

As you prepare your elevator pitch, there are a few common mistakes you’ll want to avoid:

  1. Forget the listener’s needs. An elevator pitch is mostly about you, but not entirely. A common mistake people make is simply listing their great achievements but forgetting to mention how they’re relevant for what the listener wants out of the interaction.

  2. Being vague. You need to be specific about what you do, which, we understand is tough in about 75 words. The key is to pick a quick story that embodies what you do and why it’s so effective. Numbers and attention-grabbing facts will engage your listener more than broad statements.

  3. Speaking too fast. You may have heard that 30-second goal and thought, “well, if I speed it up, I can fit more words in, right?” Wrong.

    You want your listener to be able to process all the great information you’re saying, so calm those nerves and slow your speaking speed down. Confidence is key, and rapid speech is a sign of nervousness or a rehearsed script.

  4. Sounding rehearsed. It’s great to write down your elevator pitch in full, but don’t memorize it and give the same spiel each and every time. For starters, your audience will impact what points you decide to emphasize.

    More than that though, people don’t like listening to scripted pitches. You want to sound like a natural human being. To that end, we recommend writing bullet points once you’ve got a full elevator pitch written.

    That way, you’ll always hit the most important points, but your speech patterns will change each time and sound more organic.

  5. Rambling. Your goal is to interest the listener in learning more, not to tell your whole life story. It’s okay to be selfish about who you give the speech to; it’s not ok to be selfish about how much of their time you take.

  6. Full of jargon. You need to make your pitch easy for anyone to understand, so avoid industry-specific words and a bunch of acronyms. The goal is to start a conversation, and too much jargon might leave your listener with no quality follow-up questions to ask you.

Where You’ll Use an Elevator Pitch

If you spend any time socializing with human beings, someone’s going to ask you about yourself.

You should be able to rap off your elevator pitch in the following situations:

  • Job interviews. An elevator pitch is basically the perfect answer to “tell me about yourself.” It’s impactful, to the point, and sets the stage for follow-up questions. Consider cutting some elements, though, so you don’t cannibalize your answers for other common interview questions.

  • Social events. Elevator pitches aren’t just for the professional world. They’re also a great answer to the question “what do you do” that you’ll hear a lot at social events and when meeting people for the first time.

    Obviously, you’ll tone down the “selling yourself” part of your pitch when it’s just casual conversation, but even chance encounters can lead to professional opportunities.

  • Career fairs. This is where you’ll be really happy you prepared an elevator pitch. You’ll deliver it countless times throughout the day, making career fairs a great place to practice and hone your elevator pitch. Just be sure to mix it up depending on the recruiter.

  • Resume summary statement. A resume summary statement is, more or less, an elevator pitch specifically tailored for the company you’re applying to. It just takes a few tweaks like shortening the introduction and removing the call to action entirely, and bam, you’ve got a winning resume summary statement.

  • Professional profiles. LinkedIn also has a profile summary section, which should look very similar to a resume summary statement. The only difference is that you can’t tailor it for a specific audience. So if you can generalize your elevator pitch to the widest possible audience, you’ve finished that section of your LinkedIn profile.

  • Business conferences. Whether you’re there to learn, network, or just get a company-sponsored trip somewhere nice, you’ll meet a lot of people at business conferences.

    If you’re not actively looking for anything (a job, new connections, a mentor, etc.), then you can simply drop the “pitch” part and elaborate more on your introduction.

  • Elevators. I mean, we had to include it, right?

As you can see, having an elevator pitch handy will help you be prepared for a number of situations.

Example of an Elevator Pitch

To be marketable for any position, you have to be able to sell yourself. You may be an amazing candidate, but that doesn’t matter one bit if you can’t communicate that.

An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that you can use to spark interest in who you are and what you do. You can also use one to create interest in a project, idea, or product – and that includes yourself.

The Ultimate Elevator Pitch

“Hello, I’m John Smith, nice to meet you. I’m a writer with five years of professional experience in the online content writing industry. My core skill sets are online content writing and social media engineering. I’m endlessly curious and all my colleagues and coworkers look to me for answers – they know that either I know it or I’ll find out. As I’ve always been exceptionally passionate about social issues, I’m looking to write for publications/websites focused on climate change so that I can create content and campaigns urging others to take action and ensure sustainable cacao production for future generations.”

Well done. That was masterful. You said who you were and described your experience. You inserted details that address your listener’s interests and needs.

Just remember, it is not, in the words of O’Rourke: “An opportunity to exploit, use, bore, or terrorize someone trapped in an elevator with you.”

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Author

David Luther

David Luther was the Content Marketing Editor for the Zippia Advice blog. He developed partnerships with external reporting agencies in addition to generating original research and reporting for the Zippia Career Advice blog. David obtained his BA from UNC Chapel Hill.

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