Imagine you’re on an elevator. It 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?”
This is where the elevator pitch comes in. Keep reading to find out the importance of having an elevator pitch — and how to create one that can keep just about anyone’s attention.
An elevator pitch is a short, preplanned statement designed to pitch yourself or your brand. When done right, it can be your secret weapon, opening the door for additional communication.
According to Winograd, an ideal elevator pitch should provoke 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. You want to include details about yourself or your business that encourage open-ended questions and conversation from whomever you are pitching, she said.
An elevator pitch should last less than a minute, the average length of an elevator ride.
Iris Kloth, founder of Onwards & Upwards, a career-coaching organization, uses some basic templates to help her clients form their elevator pitches. Kloth suggested considering these three questions and using your answers to create one to three sentences about yourself.
Fabienne Hansoul, founder of Rise Within-Leadership Coaching, recommends using your LinkedIn profile to get started and generate ideas.
“LinkedIn lists your experience, expertise, core skills and personality traits,” she said. “These elements paint a clear picture of your strengths. Tie these key points about yourself together by sharing an accomplishment, your career objective and your skill set.”
>>Read related: How to Use LinkedIn Personally and Professionally
The ideal length of your elevator pitch when you’re looking for angel investors and other funding sources (as opposed to a job opportunity) depends on your audience and not the volume of ideas you would like to get across. An elevator pitch’s role is not to introduce all the dimensions of your business concept but to stir interest.
The pitch should be intriguing and attention-grabbing, leaving your audience wanting more information. Avoid cramming too much information into the pitch, as it takes your attention away from the target audience.
Where you have more time, focus on explaining the crucial points of your business idea. Give your audience the chance to challenge your idea and ask questions so you can offer clarity. Be receptive to feedback on their areas of concern.
When you present your pitch, you don’t want to overwhelm your audience with too many details about yourself or your business; you need a clear outline and points that are interesting and beneficial to your audience. Here are a few tips on how to craft your elevator pitch before you present it.
Have a goal in mind for your pitch. If you’re searching for a job, your elevator pitch should present your best skills. If you intend to start a business or need more funding to expand, focus on mutual benefits to you and your audience.
It’s important to realize that other people are hoping to get a similar position or are also pitching their business ideas. In your pitch, focus on what is unique or special about you or your idea, but make it more about the listener. [Learn how to define your unique selling proposition.]
“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 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.”
Ranasinha also noted that your elevator pitch shouldn’t be a static, memorized statement. Instead of regurgitating a canned speech, engage your audience by asking a question posed as a problem that your product or service solves or that you could solve if you were hired.
No matter how great your elevator pitch is, it will be useless if you can’t deliver it in a confident, compelling way. Take some time to practice your pitch so you know where you need to improve. Read your elevator pitch while looking in a mirror. Listen to your tone of voice and watch your facial expressions.
There are several circumstances where an elevator pitch is useful. Here are some of the common scenarios.
There comes a time during a job interview when an employer asks you to tell them about yourself. This moment is the perfect opportunity to present the interviewer with your elevator pitch. You can summarize the work you do, your level of expertise and how your experience makes you a good fit for the position.
An elevator pitch that captures who you are is essential to effective introductions. Have confidence while presenting your best skills or what you do in an organization. The right people who are interested in your skills or business idea may be present and offer you an opportunity.
People often visit various booths during trade shows. They don’t stick around at any one table for long, so you only have about a minute to capture an audience’s interest. That’s a great time to deliver a concise message.
Other times to use an elevator pitch include during group discussions, lunch meetings and group travel.
Here is an example of an elevator pitch someone might use during an introduction.
“Hi, my name is Cleo. It’s nice to meet you. I understand you have some big projects coming up and you need to help your team effectively manage its workload. Over my 10 years as a project manager, my team and I gradually developed a software platform that helps managers keep their teams organized. I’d love to talk with you about how our product can help your organization. Do you have some time to talk?”
In just a few sentences, the speaker has presented an idea to capture the audience’s interest, giving them a lot of important information in less than one minute. By ending with a question, the pitcher invites the listener to continue the conversation.
When you develop an elevator pitch, consider how you want others to perceive you. Career coaches agree it’s essential to clearly communicate what you do, what your strengths are, and why you’re great at what you do. The goal is to get the audience to understand what you or your business can do for them. If you take the time to craft, edit and refine your pitch, you could turn your next unexpected meeting into a world of new opportunities.
Shayna Waltower contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.