The Elevator Pitch: When to Use it and Why

An elevator pitch is a way to help other people shortcut their thinking about you in a way that you guide and approve of. It allows them to understand what’s important about you without knowing your life story.

The key elements of an elevator pitch are brevity (can be delivered in the time it takes to change floors in an elevator), differentiation and promotion.

Why is this so hard to do? It requires you to understand what’s special about you, how others perceive that and how to communicate it.

Let’s break it down into baby steps in the context of a real example.

1. What are you?

If someone were to slap a label on your professional career, what would it be? Salesperson? Teacher? Project manager? Nurse? It’s important to speak in language that others understand. Otherwise they won’t remember what you do. 

Example: I have done work in different niches throughout my career (Public Relationsmarcom, copywriting, demand generation), but the broad label I would use to describe my career is “marketing.”

2. What makes you different from all the other people with the same label?

This doesn’t mean that no one else in the world does what you do, but among people in the same occupation what makes you stand out? Another way to look at this is: regardless of your profession, what things do you do well?

Example: I drive efficiency and process everywhere I go. I like to take on new challenges and different projects. Once they start moving smoothly I hand them off and move on.

3. Why would this be interesting to someone else?

People remember things that are personal to them or that they find interesting. Give people an idea of situations where you would be useful to help them visualize placing you – either at their own company or someone else’s. Speak to their need, not your own interest.

Example: Within the world of marketing, I can help people create new programs or refine programs they already have that aren’t running smoothly.

4. Don’t forget to tighten and refine.

Now that you have the basic structure of your elevator pitch, spend some time tightening and refining it. Aim for a length of 50 words or something you can say in about 20 seconds. Differentiate between the written and verbal versions. Your written example might use higher-level language, whereas your verbal version should use short words and can be less formal.

Written Example: I excel in creating structure, process and program management for new or failing endeavors. If you are looking for someone to create a marketing program from scratch or troubleshoot and revamp a program that is underperforming, I can help you create order out of chaos.

Verbal Example: I am a marketing person who adds process and structure to new or failing programs. I can create marketing programs from scratch or revamp programs that aren’t performing well. When a company needs someone to create order out of chaos, I’m the person they call.

Once you’ve got your elevator pitch down, practice it until you can recite it in your sleep. Then you’ll be ready when your moment comes.