Elevator pitches have come up several times in the last two weeks, including in Twitter chats, an email exchange with a potential client, and in my career management workshop for Teach for America corps members. For the uninitiated, an elevator pitch is the 15 to 30 second pitch you would give to someone you met on a short elevator ride. The pitch covers how and why this person can help you, whether it’s for your career, business, or something else.
In reality, it’s unlikely that you’ll have such a short time to talk with someone when you’re at a networking event, the most common place an elevator pitch is used. It’s more important that when you’re meeting someone for the first time, you’re prepared to start strong and then continue an engaging conversation about what you have to offer.
Here are my three tips on how to make your elevator pitch as strong as it possible for networking events.
1. Know the answers to these six elevator pitch prompts.
Great elevator pitches finish these statements in a compelling way.
1. I am a… (professional role)
2. I currently…. (seek employment, seek clients, happily employed)
3. I specialize in (how I solve problems)…
4. I am the best (what are my results)…
5. I do it because…
6. I want you to and I will in return…
Review the prompts above and write one-sentence answers to each one, getting very specific and short (think of them like tweets). Pay attention to prompts 3 through 5 because they are what will always make you unique. In particular, think about why you do what you do- this is the most personal of all the prompts. We’ve talked about the importance of knowing why you do things a few times on this blog.
In case it still seems abstract, here are some ways that I would answer these prompts as Founder and CEO of The Opportunities Project.
3. Specialize: I specialize in helping young professionals build their soft skills and use social media to accelerate their job search.
4. Results: I’ve helped my clients clarify their goals, get jobs quickly and confidently, and learn new skills they will use throughout their careers.
5. Why: I started my company after working in K-12 education reform for 13 years and seeing that my work was meaningless because our higher education system is broken. Most young people graduate from college unprepared for careers and adulthood and I wanted to do something about it. (Yes, I know this is over 140 characters, but it’s important!)
2. Try out combinations of the prompts that work for you and the events you attend.
Even if you kept your answers to 140 characters or less for each prompt, that’s a long introduction. You want to put together short combinations of the prompts for elevator pitches that can be used in different situations. You can then incorporate the other prompts in your ongoing conversation as they become relevant.
For example, if I was attending a business networking event with small business owners from various industries who “know the drill,” I’d get right to the point and start with a Prompt 1, 2, 6 combo.
– “Hi! My name is Tracy Brisson. I am the Founder and CEO of The Opportunities Project, and I provide career coaching and recruitment consulting services, focusing on young professionals. I am always looking for new clients and interesting projects. If you know anyone who needs help getting closer to achieving their career goals, I appreciate referrals. Tell me about your company and what you’re looking for from this event?”
However, if I was attending an event with people who were interested in social change and educational inequities, I’d do a Prompt 1, 3, 5 punch.
-“Hi! My name is Tracy Brisson. I am the Founder and CEO of The Opportunities Project, and I provide career coaching and recruitment consulting. I specialize in helping young professionals build their soft skills and use social media to accelerate their job search. I left my job in recruitment and K-12 education because I felt my work was meaningless when I realized large numbers of our students were graduating from college without the skills they need to participate in today’s economy.”
As powerful as the second pitch may read, it would likely not go over well at every event. Some people may feel like I was preaching to them to about education when they just want to create a relationship because we both own a local business. If they are not regularly tuned into education issues, they may spend so much time thinking about my “why” that they don’t think about my “what.” As a business owner seeking new clients and relationships, that would be a loss for me. However, as the conversation went on, someone may ask what I did before I startedmy own business and I could include my “why” in that context, still making me memorable. I could also include stories that reflect my results.
What combinations might work for you?
3. Practice, practice, practice.
How you say your elevator pitch will matter as much or even more than what you say. Practice your combinations until you feel confident and comfortable introducing yourself with them. You will find out what words and inflections come natural to you. If you don’t have to think about the specific words, you will sound more enthusiastic and be able to listen and be present with the people you are connecting to at the event. This will increase the odds that you’ll make new, productive relationship, which is your goal.
Questions? Feedback? Leave them in the comments. Happy networking!