Ah, the elevator speech – or pitch – a timeless business networking staple.
It’s the 30-second speech that summarizes who you are, what you do, and why you’d be an ideal candidate. 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.”
This is the place where most guides take you on a hypothetical vision quest: “Imagine, you step onto the elevator, hit the button to ride to your boss’s floor to ask for a raise — then halfway through your ride the CEO steps onto the elevator OH MY GOD WHAT DO YOU DO?!”
But this is Zippia, y’all – that ain’t how we roll.
How do you get the attention of someone important who has a dozen other things on their mind? How can you turn a quick hello into a promising job lead?
A practiced elevator speech.
Your elevator speech isn’t just for elevators – it’s for any time when you need to tell someone:
Because in reality, people don’t talk on elevators, they just stare at their phones and suffer through 90’s hits played on marimbas. Similarly, your elevator speech is for a wide variety of situations…
A grizzly bear just burst through the door, stands up and roars, “I’ll spare you and allow you to ride me like a horse if you can tell me about yourself in thirty seconds – otherwise I’m mauling you!”
What do you say?
Too late, you just got mauled.
Your elevator speech, while not necessarily life and death, is a crucial piece of your bear-hunting weaponry 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.
It needs to be succinct while still conveying important information.
The first part begins with asking yourself a few questions and answering them:
This step of the process – focusing 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 broad interview questions.
“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 fifteen seconds. You’ll use the rest of your time to get across special skills and specific ways you can help a potential employer.
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.
If that sounds like some dating advice to you, then your head is in the right place.
You’re sitting at a bar and the god/goddess next to you turns and says, “I’ll fly you to Paris for the weekend – and also show you my clean criminal background check – but first, what do you do?”
What do you say?
“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 other compliment you. That says why you’re a qualified candidate – but was that really unique?
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:
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 the whole time “what’s in it for me?”, that’s the right step.
You hit it off in Paris, and you’re meeting the new significant other’s parents for the first time. The physician dad goes, “So what is it that you do, exactly? Something on the interwebs?”
What do you tell him?
“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 need 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 dad 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.
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 gets your elevator pitch:
If you spend any time socializing with human beings – or particularly impressive animals like the bear from earlier – someone’s going to ask you about yourself.
You should be able to rap off your elevator pitch in any place:
And come to think of it, actually rapping it would be a pretty memorable touch.
“But!” you might cluelessly interject. “What if there are no elevators in my town?”
Well, my friend who cannot grasp metaphor, a solid elevator pitch will allow you to hone in on exactly who you are and what you offer in any situation.
It’s going to be useful in interviews – and not just as a deliverable speech. Your ability to focus and succinctly deliver your qualities sets you apart from all the other candidates vying for the same job.
Yes, even if this particular job has a lot of health nuts who always take the stairs over the elevators.
To be a 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.
You’re on a lovely picnic with the new spouse and in-laws when Elon Musk rappels from a Tesla helicopter and says, “I’ll offer you a seven-figure job as my on-call chocolate taster and bear-rider, but first, why should I hire you?”
What do you shout to him over the rotors?
Hello, I’m [your name]. 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. I’ve got a particular interest in studying and preserving the grizzly population in America
Well done. That was masterful. You said who you were and described your experience. You inserted details that address Elon Musk’s interests and needs.
Go forth, bear-rider. 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.”