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3 Steps to Creating a Perfect Elevator Pitch

elevator pitch

Coming up with a single paragraph–and a short one at that–to convince people to work with you isn’t all that easy.

How can you capture all your experience and talents and goals in a few sentences without sounding arrogant, phony, or boring?

Most people wind up writing a boring career summary on their resumes and rattling off their job titles at networking events. And then….nothing happens.

A great elevator pitch can make something happen. And when you break it down into parts, and take them one at a time, creating one is pretty easy–even fun.

Using this three-part framework, recommended by Kelly Studer, an executive career coach based in California, can help you create a pitch that leaves people wanting to know more about you.

A good pitch should convey three things:

  • What you do
  • How you do it
  • Why you do it

Each of those parts can be a single sentence, and no more than two.  Remember you don’t have much time to make an impression, either in person or at the top of your resume. You don’t want to drown people in information, but to prompt them to ask for more. And to get people interested in you, you have to be interesting. That means letting a bit of your personality come through. Here’s how:

What You Do – This should be more than your job title or the name of your current company. Choose a way to describe your job that makes you more than just a title – remember that your title is not unique, and different companies use different titles for the same role. Depending on the stage of your career or your goals, you might not want to mention a title at all. It can limit your options.

Instead of saying “I’m a software developer,” try something such as “I create software that allows people of all skill levels to build their own mobile apps. 5,000 apps have been created on my software to this day.”

How You Do It Identify your top two or three talents, and express them in a few phrases. Are you obsessed with slashing production time or the creative brains behind several viral marketing campaigns? What makes you different than other people who have your job title? If you do something complicated that might be tough for your listener to understand, use a metaphor to tell the story. In other words, don’t give the same pitch at a meeting with developers as you would in a room of CEOs, where you might say, “Using my JavaScript and CSS skills, I create tools that people can put together to make their own apps, sort of like Legos for iPhone apps.”

Why You Do It – This is where your personality and enthusiasm must come through to seal the deal. Your final sentence describes your passion and commitment, your motivation or the impact you want to make. That developer might spark interest with this pitch:  “I want to create a world where anyone can easily create an app, and not be constrained by huge costs or lack of technology skills. Imagine what people could create when these barriers are removed.”

Practice Your Pitch

Once you have a written pitch, or a couple of versions of it, add it to your resume and social profiles. And then you need to practice speaking it. It will probably sound stiff or awkward at first, but that doesn’t mean it is not good. Keep in mind that what works in written form can sound unnatural and rehearsed when spoken out loud, so tweak your pitch so that it flows naturally when verbalized.

Craft a Better Pitch

Use Simple Language  You might say, “identified” in a written pitch, but “spot,” “see,” or “look for,” sound more natural when speaking. For example, “I identify fashion trends” vs. “I look at what people are buying now and envision the next trend.” The second version tells a story.

Try a Question – This is an informal way to engage people right away. It works particularly well if your job involves a product such as software that can be hard to explain. If you are at a software conference, you might say you have a “SaaS platform allowing application development and publication for small or new businesses.” But if you are speaking with people that aren’t in your industry, or want to engage anyone faster, ask: “Ever have a great idea for an app, but didn’t know how to build one?”

Practice, Practice, Practice – Practice your pitch with a friend or family member, in front of a mirror, to your goldfish, anyone. Have someone video you practicing and notice if there are places in your pitch that your body languages changes or you often stumble on words.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.