We hear a lot these days about elevator pitches and their role in networking. But what exactly is an elevator pitch and what makes them most impactful as a networking tool? Here some business coaches, consultants, and networking experts share their top tips and best practices. But, first, let’s take a look at what an elevator pitch is.
What is an Elevator Pitch?
Elevator pitches emerged through the movie industry, where ambitious screenwriters would try to connect with movie executives, often literally on an elevator, and share with them briefly their great idea. Since that time, they have come to be used widely by salespeople, entrepreneurs, and others. SCORE, a nonprofit organization that works with small businesses, defines an elevator pitch as: “a persuasive, concise introduction that provides the listener with a solid idea of a person, a business, a product or service (or practically anything else) within just a short space of time.” Kristen Zavo is a career coach and the author of Job Joy: Your Guide to Success, Meaning & Happiness in Your Career. A good elevator pitch, says Zavo, “tells the listener who you are, what you do, and what differentiates you—all in a way that engages the listener and leaves them wanting more.” It is, she says: “the appetizer to your bigger career story that connects your experience, education, passion, and skill set in such a way to show how you are the perfect fit for whatever job you’re seeking.” Today, just about anybody in any field and with any goal can make effective use of an elevator speech, including business professionals hoping to make their mark and move forward in the corporate world. Precisely because so many people are making use of elevator speeches, it’s important to understand how you can create one that will make you stand out from the masses.
Your elevator pitch should be designed to clearly, and succinctly, convey who you are and what you do, says Lindsay Anvik, is a business coach and keynote speaker focusing on leadership, productivity, and marketing. “Be clear,” stresses Anvik. “Saying that you’re a consultant doesn’t mean much. A consultant of what?” Keep in mind that others are likely not as familiar with your area of emphasis as you are so simply stating a title may not mean much to them. “Saying you’re a marketing consultant leaves people scratching their heads,” she says. “What part of marketing do you consult on? What industries? Big or small companies?” If it takes too long to explain, says Anvik, your pitch is wrong. “Don’t be shy about explaining yourself, but don’t drone on either,” she advises. “If you can’t do it in one or two sentences, you need to refine your pitch.”
Find the Right Balance
Christopher K. Lee is a career consultant and the founder of Purpose Redeemed. The elevator is the first impression you make while networking, says Lee. It should be no longer than 30 seconds, he says, and should include three components:
- What you do (your work and background)
- Why you do it (your mission or vision)
- Why it matters to your audience (your value proposition
It’s important, says Lee, to balance these three areas to avoid overemphasizing any one. “Focus too much on #1 and you miss connecting with your audience; focus too much on #2 and it becomes inspirational fluff; focus too much on #3 and it may sound like an aggressive sales pitch.” Katherine McGraw Patterson is a business strategist and the founder of WEBO Network. She is the author of Lunching With Lions: Strategies for the Networking-Averse, which will be available in March. The best elevator pitches, says Patterson, have a few things in common. “One, a hook—something that grabs the audience’s attention immediately. Two, social proof—information that shows that what you have to offer fulfills a promise to deliver. Three, a call to action.”
Also read: How Do I Perfect My Personal Pitch?
Get Their Attention
Chaim Shapiro is a career expert and director of student success at Touro College. “An effective elevator pitch is essential to job seekers,” says Shapiro. “The problem is that too many elevator pitches sound like elevator music.” A cliched pitch won’t help you stand out, says Shapiro. Instead, he advises, think about what makes you unique and why you stand out. But, he cautions, be careful here. “Avoid exaggerations and what I like to call ‘able to leap a tall building in a single bound’ statements.” Playing to people’s emotions can help you make an impact. “People make decisions based on emotions,” says Patterson, who recommends using emotional language in your pitch. “When you use emotional language in your elevator speech to describe your ideal client and your services, you create an emotional connection and help your audience understand the reasons why someone would choose you over the competition.” An effective elevator speech can help you make a positive impression that has staying power. In the world of networking, doing this effectively will help you stand out to reach your personal and professional goals.