How to Perfect Your Elevator Pitch

Elevator Pitch

The idea behind an elevator pitch, or elevator speech, is that if you run into someone you want to connect with in an elevator, you only have a few flights to engage them so they'll want to keep up a conversation with you.

The elevator speech is all about optimizing opportunity. An outstanding pitch can even turn casual social interactions into business opportunities.

These days, savvy executives use strong elevator speeches to spur connection far beyond a few chance encounters. When the inevitable "what do you do" question comes up at networking events and expos or even at the start of planned, introductory meetings, the elevator pitch is a great way to capture an audience's attention quickly.

Include Who, What, and Why

A great elevator pitch always answers three questions: who you are, what you do, and why you do it. You then want to close with a strong call to action or open-ended question that encourages a response.

"Hi! I'm Jane Smith. I've worked in marketing for five years, and I just finished my MBA at Ashford University. I love the power of social media to grow businesses, so I'm looking for a company that's ready to expand their social reach. How does your company use social?"

In a few short sentences, Jane was able to position herself as a marketing professional with business skills, share her passion for social media, and make space to find out whether the other person's company will fit her needs.

Be Prepared for Questions

There's a danger in being so sure of your pitch that you forget the goal is to start a conversation. Asking for what you need doesn't mean someone else will be ready to give it to you right away. Be prepared for follow-up questions. In fact, follow-ups are a good sign your elevator speech is engaging!

"Nice to meet you, Jane. My company doesn't do much with social media, because traditional advertising options still seem to work for us. What do you like so much about these new platforms?"

This kind of follow-up question is a golden opportunity to customize your pitch to the person you're speaking with and answer the "what's in it for me" question. Be ready to share the benefits of your approach based on other people's needs or concerns.

Make it Value Driven

Jane's speech includes all the crucial elements, feels conversational, and even encourages engagement with a strong question. One more tweak would make it shine even more, and that's actually including the benefit of the work she does in her initial pitch.

"Hi! I'm Jane Smith. I've worked in marketing for five years and just finished my MBA at Ashford University. I love growing audience and sales through the power of social media, and I'm looking for the next company I can help. How does your company use social?"

One small tweak made Jane seem more valuable from the start. She connected her love of social media to a potential increase in sales and reach and made it clear that regardless of whether a company knew they needed help, she was ready to give it. Keep your speech focused on the value you provide to others, and it will drive results.

Keep Things Conversational

Writing down bullet points for your elevator pitch, if not every single word, can help organize your thoughts and streamline your speech. Drafting is a necessary step, but don't let it be your final one. The words have to flow smoothly and naturally, or you'll sound like an infomercial.

Note that Jane said, "I've worked in marketing for five years," rather than "I have five years' marketing experience." The former is the way people talk. The latter is cover-letter language. Practice your pitch out loud to catch unnatural turns of phrase, then replace them with something that sounds less formal.

The greatest irony of perfecting an elevator speech is that you should practice your pitch until you sound completely unrehearsed. Say it enough, and it will become second nature.

It's always been important to make a strong first impression. In today's business world, a great elevator speech is a vital tool for both chance meetings and planned presentations.

If you craft a 30-second speech that succinctly summarizes who you are, the work you do, and why it matters in a conversational manner, you'll be well on your way to mastering the art of the elevator pitch.

Written by Ashford University staff


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