Whether you’re on the market or in marketing, the elevator pitch should be at the top of your to-do list if you’re someone looking to sell a product or an idea.
In today’s world, that’s all of us – especially if you’re a young and hungry student or grad ready to hatch a career.
The power of the elevator pitch is not to be underestimated.
In the 1980s, Steve Jobs was determined to lure then-Pepsi-President John Sculley away from his job and into a seat as Apple’s CEO.
The youngest president in Pepsi’s history, Sculley wasn’t looking to make a career move. Jobs tried every offer he could dream up, until he hit on what might be the greatest elevator pitch in history:
“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water? Or do you want a chance to change the world?”
Sculley became the CEO of Apple in 1983.
What is the elevator pitch?
It’s a speech that lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute – roughly the length of an elevator ride – during which you sell, pitch or otherwise market your idea or product.
For job-seekers everywhere, that product or idea is you.
Your elevator pitch is your summary of who you are, what you do, and what makes you the perfect candidate. In other words, your elevator pitch is your story made “brutally simple”.
Sounds easy, right? But reducing years of your experience and accomplishments into a slickly-crafted 30-second punch can feel as challenging as attempting to fit a hippo into a bumper car.
Creating and delivering an elevator pitch takes some careful thought and consideration, so here’s a few tips on making your elevator pitch a knockout:
1) Write it out
Like any good script, your pitch is that much better if written out beforehand. By writing it out, you are able to see how your pitch flows, and where it needs work – just like any other piece of writing you would work on.
Start with your resume, which lists your professional experience and can help you get the ball rolling.
What are the major skills and experiences you want to draw attention to? You won’t have time to cover everything. Remember: your elevator pitch shouldn’t last more than a full minute.
In terms of a word count, you’re probably looking in the area of 120-150 words that make up your pitch. If your resume is a full-page long, you’re looking at closer 350-450 words. So break it down.
2) No jargon, please
In addition to precision and clarity, elevator pitches need to be accessible. That means cutting jargon.
Here’s an example of how jargon can obscure your meaning:
“I contributed to audience outreach by leveraging integrated social media messaging and aligning our strategy with attention to platform-specific standards and positioning.”
These are all specialized terms that may mean nothing to a potential employer. Jargon can confuse your audience, or cause them to disengage altogether. This is clearer:
“I encouraged audience engagement by building a presence on different social media platforms, making sure our strategy used each platform for unique purposes.”
3) Write a couple
In addition to being accessible, your elevator pitch needs to be versatile: easy to deliver under different circumstances without a hitch.
Instead of trying to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution, understand how you’ll present yourself in different scenarios where an elevator pitch might come in handy. Pitching yourself at a networking event requires a different attitude and delivery than you might use in a job interview, for example.
Indeed, it isn’t uncommon for the best job-seekers, salespeople and marketers to have several versions of their elevator pitch in their back pocket.
A good elevator pitch isn’t just easy for you to deliver – it’s also irresistible to the person listening.
4) Practice makes perfect
Your elevator pitch is truly only as good as you deliver it, and a solid performance only comes from practice.
Whether you rehearse in front of a mirror, or use a recording of yourself to hone your technique, practicing your elevator pitch is integral. Not only can you be able to time yourself, but practice gives you ample opportunity to smoothen out your delivery.
Additionally, while an unrehearsed pitch is problematic, a pitch that sounds rehearsed is also less than ideal. Continued practice will allow you to not only memorize your pitch, but also deliver it well enough to sound natural – every time.