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Career Zone

Perfect Your Elevator Pitch
June 2009

How many times have you gone to a party and were introduced to someone new and the first thing they say to you is “Nice to meet you, what do you do?” It is always one of the first questions people ask someone they just met. It's easy and we are all guilty of asking the question. When asked, we all instinctively say “I'm a (fill in dull job title here)” and you hear “Oh, that's nice.” It makes for a boring conversation doesn't it?

Many of you reading the Career Zone are in the middle of a job search or are looking for opportunities to grow your network so you can be more successful in your career. I always remember the phrase “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” so why not make a first impression that lasts and keep the conversation more interesting?

Your answer to the question “what do you do?” is a form of your “elevator pitch”. An elevator pitch does not have to happen in an elevator. It just means you have a short time (60 seconds) to grab someone's attention when explaining what you do and why you do it differently from everyone else. This is your opportunity to pique their interest in wanting to learn more about you or your product/service. Think of it as the preview to a movie you might go see. You make your decision to see the movie based on a short clip of the full feature. If the preview is engaging enough, you will shell out the $10 to see the movie.

How do you go about making a good first impression and grabbing someone's attention from a 60 second elevator pitch? Well first you need to remember that people are always more interested in how you can help them solve a problem they have.

Let's look at some sample pitches.

“Hi, my name is Jane Smith and I work for ABC Company as a financial advisor”

“Hi, I am John Smith and I am a sales manager for ABC Company in New York.”

Neither of those examples would have continued a conversation. Keep that in mind when you begin to compose your elevator pitch. What if I turned things around a bit and started with benefits or a solution?

Here is how to improve on the examples above:

“Hello, I am Jane Smith, and I help people keep track of their money so they don't have to hide it under their mattress. I am a financial advisor for ABC Company”

“Hi, I am John Smith. I help companies save money by reducing the time it takes for them to create widgets. Product ABC will help streamline the widget process and I partner with operations to make that happen.”

Some other samples of attention grabbing pitches include:

  • A friend of mine who sells owns a hair salon says that he “makes women beautiful.”
  • A recruiter I know says that “he helps people find their dream jobs.”
  • Someone I recently met who is in public relations said she “spreads positive propaganda about her company.”

How can you craft your own pitch? Here are a few tips you can use to keep the conversation going. Remember to be passionate and creative.

Know your objective: Are you looking for a new job? Do you have a new product or service to inform others about? Did your company win a new client or prestigious award? What story do you want to tell? If you know your objective it will help you deliver the right message.

One example on how you can use a pitch to get an informational interview is:
“I understand you do public relations in the media industry. I have always been fascinated by PR and I am thinking about making a career transition into it myself. Would you mind if I picked your brain over coffee next Tuesday? I would really appreciate it.”

Know your audience: You may not know anything about who you are talking to. Ask questions before giving your pitch so you know how to tailor it. If you are pitching to a potential investor, focus on how you plan to make money. If you are pitching to a potential employer or customer, explain what problem you can solve for them.

Solve a problem/Know your benefits: Know what you can do to help their situation out. What can a potential employer derive from your skills and experiences? What kind of problem can you solve for a potential customer? Keep it short and simple - focus on one or two benefits. Do not try to cram your entire resume into one short 60 second pitch.

Be creative: Grab the persons attention with your creativity and excitement. You will need multiple versions of your pitch that you can mix and match depending on who you are talking to and what your objective is. Make your pitch personal and interesting so you leave the listener wanting more information.

Practice: You want to be natural and relaxed when you give your elevator pitch. Practice in front of friends or the mirror to make sure you sound passionate, sincere and confident.