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Lead Your Team Strategy

What Is an Elevator Pitch?

Credit: RawPixel/Shutterstock

Imagine that you are on an elevator. The car stops, and the vice president of a company you want to work at steps in.

"The doors close and you have 20 or 30 seconds to grab his interest," said Melanie Winograd, Marketing Specialist at IMPACT Group. "Quick! What do you say?"

While you likely won't have many real-life elevator encounters like this, similar situations – where you only have a moment to spark someone's interest – happen all the time. Taking advantage of the short amount of time that you have with a prospective employer, hiring manager, networking contact, etc., is crucial, Winograd said.

This is where the "elevator pitch" comes in. This short, preplanned statement, designed to pitch yourself or your brand, can be your secret weapon when done right, and open the door for additional communication.

According to Winograd, an ideal elevator pitch should spark interest, be interesting and memorable, and last about 30 to 60 seconds (the length of an average elevator ride, hence the name). Any longer and you risk losing your audience's attention; any shorter, and you might leave out important information. Include details about your business that encourage open-ended questions and conversation from whomever you are pitching, she said.

Iris Kloth, a Hong Kong-based career coach with IMPACT Group, uses some basic templates to help her clients form their elevator pitch. Consider these three questions – the answers should be used to create one to three sentences about yourself, said Kloth.

  1. Who do you work with? (This applies to internal employment as well as external coaching or consulting positions.)
  2. What do you do, or what role do you play?
  3. What result is achieved? (Describe the change or success you bring to this role.)

Fabienne Hansoul, a career and transition coach in China and Thailand recommends utilizing your LinkedIn profile to get started and generate ideas.

"LinkedIn lists your experience, expertise, core skills and personality traits. These elements paint a clear picture of your strengths," said Hansoul. "Tie these key points about yourself together by sharing an accomplishment, your career objective and your skill set."

When developing an elevator pitch, it is important to consider how you want others to perceive you in these situations. Career coaches agree it's important to clearly communicate what you do, what your strengths are and why you are great at what you do. The goal is to get the audience to understand what the business is about and what it can do for them.

"Remember that it's not about you," said Gee Ranasinha, CEO of marketing services provider Kexino. "Put yourself in the position of the listener. Shape the value message as a solution to a problem, and keep away from technobabble and jargon. Talk about how you offer a solution to the problem without getting into under-the-hood mechanics of how it works, or why it's better than the competition. Don't tie up every loose end – leave openings for questions."

Ranasinha stressed the need for concision in your pitch. You need to make your point early, and make it clearly.

"Think of your pitch like a blog post," Ranasinha said. "Start off with your strong headline – your value promise – and then spend the rest of the time backing up your position with evidence, case studies or testimonials."

Finally, Ranasinha noted that your elevator pitch shouldn't be a static, memorized statement. Instead of a canned, formulaic, verbatim regurgitation, try to engage your  audience by asking a question posed as a problem that your product or service solves.

Spending some time crafting, editing and refining your pitch can turn your next unexpected meeting into a world of new opportunities.

Additional reporting by Katherine Arline. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Jennifer Post

Jennifer Post graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. Having worked in the food industry, print and online journalism, and marketing, she is now a freelance contributor for Business News Daily. When she's not working, you will find her exploring her current town of Cape May, NJ or binge watching Pretty Little Liars for the 700th time.