Imagine that you’re at a conference looking to explore business opportunities and secure a job interview. You get into an elevator on the ground floor of the hotel you’re staying in, and, when the doors open, you see the CEO of your dream company standing inside. You’re both staying on the 12th floor, so you have a finite amount of time during this elevator ride to introduce yourself, express your interest in their company, and potentially, hopefully, secure a time to continue the conversation further.
This is what comes to mind for many people when they think of an “elevator pitch ” or "elevator speech" as it has come to be known now in the business world. The idea is that, if you were given just a short elevator ride with a person, what would you say to persuade them toward your goal? Legend has it that the term started with the inventor of the elevator, Elisha Otis, as he was trying to demonstrate the safety of his new elevator safety locks in front of a crowd. Today, an elevator pitch can be in a range of formats, settings and themes, but its value is as strong as ever.
In this blog post, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what an elevator pitch is and why it’s important, as well as reading some elevator pitch examples to help you develop one of your own.
What is an Elevator Pitch?
Despite its name, an elevator pitch doesn’t have to happen in an elevator. Rather, it’s a short, persuasive speech or sales pitch that you can give anytime, anywhere, to any target audience. Many people might think of Shark Tank when they hear this term, but it’s typically far less elaborate than that. Your pitch doesn’t have to be about a revolutionary product or “big idea,” but it can be! For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on a personal elevator pitch that you would give about yourself.
An elevator pitch can be written or spoken, but it needs to be short, clear and to the point. It should be a distilled version of the key points that define your resume, skills, and goals—if someone needed to get to know you in one minute, what would you say? Some people like to think of it as another form of a cover letter or the executive summary on your resume. The idea is that your pitch will pique someone’s interest and open the door for further conversations. Following up the discussion with your contact information (e.g., business card) is a great way to make sure you have a chance to share more.
Where You Can Use an Elevator Pitch
There’s no limit to the places you can use your elevator pitch, but the most common places, and where you’ll find they hold the most value, is at networking events, career fairs and job interviews. Essentially, the pitch is best used in any setting in which someone needs to get to know you in a short period of time and be convinced of why they should share more of their time with you.
At a networking event, for example, potential employers might ask you to introduce yourself and state your reasons for why you think you’d be a good fit for the company. In a loud, crowded environment like this, an impactful and effective elevator pitch will give them the big picture of you, your experience and your interest in a way that stands out from the others. They won’t remember the person who carried on without any key points and took up a large chunk of their time, but they will remember the confident and articulate job seeker who gave a short, engaging speech and left them wanting to know more, then moved on to let them get back to their job.
Elements of a Successful Elevator Pitch
There’s no such thing as a perfect elevator pitch, or a surefire elevator pitch template, but there certainly are time-tested elements that can help you craft a compelling one. Here are a few tips to help you cover all the important points that you want to convey in an elevator pitch, while also working to establish a personal connection with your peers.
A well-crafted pitch will give a high-level summary of your background, talents and goals in 60 seconds or less. If you decide to write an elevator pitch, keep it around 75 words. Avoid big words, complex sentences and unnecessary asides (e.g., “you remember that, don’t you? It was that one time…”). Both of you are busy, and especially at something like a networking event, you want to keep things short and sweet.
Use emphasis and tone to tell your story in a compelling way—avoid speaking in monotone and staccato sentences as it will quickly lose your audience's attention. Say the other person’s name, involve them in the discussion and use body language to accompany your words and spark interest (e.g., hand gestures and a relaxed but confident post).
Elevator pitches don’t have to be sales-y. After all, nobody likes to feel like they’re being sold to. Make your pitch conversational and rehearse it so that it sounds natural. It’s also helpful to adapt your main points slightly to your target audience so they know that you’ve put thought and time into your approach. Including their name, their company name and other distinguishing factors will signal that you aren’t giving them a cookie cutter speech.
You have a unique selling proposition and you want all of your key points to be heard. A well-crafted pitch will leave the recipient with enough understanding to know who you are and why it would be worth following up with you. Be sure to mention your full name, job title and place of work, and lean on facts and statements to guide your basic framework.
As unromantic as it may sound, you’re not the only person that is out there giving their elevator pitch, especially at places like networking events or career expos. Stand out from other candidates so that you’re not forgotten; include an attention-grabbing statistic, colorful language or even props. Some people even find success by wearing bright colors or eye-catching accessories to create a sharper memory.
Elevator Pitch Examples
Keeping the tips above in mind, here are some sample elevator pitches that you can use as a model to craft your own.
Situation: Approaching a potential employer
“Hi, my name is Marty Selmer. I’m a Creative Director who’s been in advertising for over 20 years, but for the last five I’ve been focused on branding. I noticed your company is looking for a Branding Director, and I’d love to talk more about the position. My professional experience includes helping companies like Hinge and LinkTree build their brand from the ground up, mostly with my graphic design and production skills. Have time to chat a bit more?”
Situation: Suggesting a partnership
“Susie, your talk today really had me thinking about my own team. We’re a small but mighty group of ten that helps banks find contractors to work with, and I’m the director. We have over 200 clients on record, but I have to admit, I’m struggling to keep up. Nothing feels like a better fit than your consulting business, which does all the same things we do. What can I do to get onto your schedule for a video chat?”
Situation: Seeking an investor
“If you’re looking for another success like last year’s with Emerald City Engagements, Kevin, then I have something right up your alley. The Party Starters business is built on many of the same things that brought you to Emerald, but with an added bonus of contract negotiations, staff sourcing and a database with over 16,000 client reviews. You’re the first person I thought of when we started building this. Are you free tonight to learn more?”
After the Pitch
Once you’ve had the opportunity to share your elevator pitch with someone, that shouldn’t be the end of your contact. Thank them for their time and outline your next steps with a timeline: “I’ll send you an email by tomorrow night,” “My secretary will reach out with my contact information.”
After the fact, follow up with another form of communication in a personal message (email, text, LinkedIn request, etc.) so they don’t forget your name. Don’t ask them when would be a good time to talk—suggest two or three times that work for you and see if they can oblige. Be flexible but persistent so that they know you’re still interested.
From Elevator Pitches to Executive Panels
Much of crafting an effective elevator pitch is strong communication skills and a thorough understanding of your value proposition. This requires well-rounded soft skills, in addition to the technical knowledge and expertise that you build throughout your professional experience. But developing this skill will help you get in front of the right people to reach the next level in your career. For more career tips (and even some networking events to practice your elevator pitch), visit the Yeshiva University Sy Syms School of Business Blog.