You’re standing in line for your morning coffee when you notice someone standing behind you. It’s only the CEO of the startup where you see yourself in your dream job! Do you panic and freeze? Trip over your own feet and spill your coffee down the front of their shirt? Or do you introduce yourself with the execution of an Olympic athlete and deliver a perfectly polished elevator speech?
If you have any desire to progress in your career, you’d better hope you picked the last option. And don’t worry – you don’t need to spend hours in front of the mirror.
Being able to sell yourself is an essential skill. You’ll never be the successful candidate, secure a new client, or get a book deal, without being able to nail a perfect elevator pitch.
Engage from the get-go
The most important part of your pitch is the first 20 seconds. Your opening line should capture the attention of your listener and make them want to learn more about you. Be memorable and think outside the box.
Get creative with your first sentence. Here are some ways to begin:
- Did you know…
- What if…
- Imagine if…
- Picture this:
A large portion of your success hangs on your opening line – make sure it’s a cracker.
Know your goal and stick to the point
“It is better to say nothing than spend 1000 words or make an hour-long speech saying nothing. Get to the point – fast.” ~ Richard Branson
The elevator pitch got its name for a reason. 118 seconds – that’s the average time an elevator ride takes in New York City. This means you should be able to convey your message in under two minutes. Be clear and concise. Identify your goals. What is it that you want to achieve? Are you ready to take the next step in your career? Do you have an important job interview coming up? You need to tailor your pitch to suit your purpose. On that note, just as you wouldn’t wear a business suit to go to the supermarket, one elevator pitch shouldn’t be used in all situations. Think about your audience – you need to present the right information to help you to reach a specific goal.
Practice makes perfect
When we’re nervous we tend to ramble. Ensuring your pitch flows smoothly and doesn’t digress to the time you won the middle school spelling bee, requires practice.
Here are the essentials to include in your pitch if you go for a new job, network at an event, or spontaneously chance upon a new professional contact in the street, coffee shop or, dare we say it, elevator:
- Career – Describe what it is you do professionally. Use active language such as “I develop” or “I manage” and the present tense, e.g. “I am” instead of “I was”.
- Expertise – Talk about your key skills. What skills do you possess that help you to do your job to the best of your ability?
- Environment – What types of companies and workplaces have you worked in? Have you worked for startups? Nonprofits? Government? Private enterprise?
- Strengths – Identify what it is that makes you stand out from the competition. Do you have special connections? An impressive certificate or qualification? Have you won an award?
Once you have narrowed down your pitch to the most important points, you need to practice it. Get friendly with your reflection and check out the way your body language and facial expressions come across while you talk. The aim is not to sound like a robot. You need to come across as sincere, enthusiastic and believable.
Next time you find yourself in a chance encounter with your dream employer, be prepared. Resist the urge to waffle about the highs and lows of your career, or give an in-depth retelling of your 1000-page novel. Come up with a creative opening line that immediately engages your listener. Take time to narrow down what you really want to say. And once you’ve nailed your pitch, you’re guaranteed to walk away with a business card in your hand and the prospect of a future meeting.