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    How to create an elevator pitch that takes you to the top

    November 22, 2016 by Alison Hill

    ‘What do you do for a living?’ ‘So, what’s your business all about?’ ‘Tell me about yourself.’ If you’ve ever stumbled over a response to these enquiries, you need to craft yourself an elevator pitch.

    It’s called an elevator pitch because it should take no longer to deliver than the trip in the lift (or elevator, as they say over there) ­from the ground floor to the boardroom ­– about 30 seconds or so.

    In essence, your elevator pitch is a brief, interesting statement about who you are and what you do that makes the recipient care and want to know more. Whatever your purpose, the steps to take to create your elevator pitch are the same.

    Define your goal

    Why do you want to tell people about yourself or your organisation? You might want to make a career move, explain your start-up idea or sell your organisation as a great place to work. You might want to pitch a great idea to an exec, meet like-minded people at a networking event or create interest in your new product. Being clear about what you want to achieve is the first step, because it will shape what you say in your pitch.

    Explain what you do

    This is the simple, most obvious part. ‘My company handles corporate insurance’, or ‘I am a social worker and I work with young people with a disability ’. However, this is only the start. The more interesting part comes next.


    TIP: Don’t use jargon or excessively bureaucratic language. You run the risk of sounding insincere, or of your audience not understanding what it is you do at the end of it.


    Explain how you do it

    To stand out from the other insurers, or social workers, or whatever it is you do – because you will most likely never be the only one – include your ‘unique selling proposition’ or USP, to use some advertising jargon. What makes you different? What is your story about why you do what you do, and how do you do it in a way that makes you unique? This is what will make your audience remember you, so include it in your pitch in a way that is memorable.

    Use words such as ‘I have a knack for…’ or ‘I’m an effective…’ in your USP. They convey your ability and self-confidence without sounding conceited (yes, many of us struggle with that).

    Engage the recipient with a question

    At the end of your 30 or so seconds, have an open-ended question ready for the other person, such as ‘How does that relate to what you do?’ Your pitch can then move into conversation mode. (Unless you really are in a lift, in which case stop there.)


    TIP: Keep some business cards readily accessible so that you can hand them to the person at the end of your pitch or conversation.


    Practise your pitch until it is perfect

    You might well feel a little awkward, but practise saying your pitch out loud. Do it several times over. Time it, and perhaps even record yourself, and make sure it is not too loud. Say it to another person who will give you honest feedback about both your content and your delivery.


    TIP: Be natural in your speech patterns and in the words you choose. Your elevator pitch should be an authentic representation of you. Watch your body language – make sure it reflects what you are saying. Telling people how compassionate you are in a stilted voice with your arms folded will not come across as convincing.


    This is a real example of a suggested pitch: ‘I’m currently working as Human Resources Manager at [insert company]. My supervisors frequently commend me for being able to weigh and consider multiple perspectives and negotiate conflicting perspectives.’ Would you really speak that way? If you would, that’s fine, but if not, rather say something like  ‘My bosses often tell me I’m good at weighing and considering a lot of perspectives  and negotiating in conflicts’.

    Be prepared to tweak your elevator pitch both for the occasion and as your skills and experience evolve. At the end of it, the listener should have a really clear idea of the value you can deliver. Perhaps most importantly, your fire and excitement as you deliver it should be obvious, and infectious. It could just be the 30 seconds that changes your life.


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