Brushing Up on Professional Development: How to Craft a Great Elevator Speech


Its a pretty awkward situation when you realize youre standing in line behind Liam Neeson at your local Starbucks. When he turns around to see what kind of pastries are in the glass window in front of you, you both make eye contact. He instantly can tell by the deer-in-headlights look on your face that you know who he is. He gives you a smile and says hello. What seems like hours pass before youre able to spit out a hi and before you know it, hes already grabbed his cup of joe, croissant, and left.

Well, you most certainly dont want to encounter this situation the next time youre at a networking event or interview! Most especially if its with the hiring manager or CEO of the company!

If youre unfamiliar with what an elevator speech is, its basically like the Liam Neeson scenario, except in a Id-like-you-to-consider-me-for-a-professional-opportunity kind of angle. Imagine that youve just entered an elevator and lo and behold, the CEO of KPMG is right in there with you. You have about 30-60 seconds to make a good impression before he reaches his appointment on the 7th floor. Go.

Scary? We know. But worry not. Heres a great formula you can follow to craft a great elevator speech that will leave your next potential employer or client remembering you despite your brief interaction in an elevatoror a Starbucks.

1. Identify what kind of opportunity youre looking for 
Whether youre looking for a job or want to grow your business, the first step of a great elevator pitch is identifying who youre making the pitch for. A potential employer or client? Once youve nailed that down, do thorough research as to what the opportunity entails. What are the responsibilities, duties, and tasks of this opportunity?

2. Research the opportunitys qualifications and skills 
Just like anything, research is key. Take a look at the position youre looking to fulfill. What are the qualifications and skills that you need to make this happen? Whats the employer looking for? You can easily do this by logging into job search sites, typing in the job title, and looking at the job descriptions that appear in the listings. Then, gather a general list of qualifications and skills that come up often and are necessary for consideration.

In addition, research the opportunitys potential for growth. Where do people with this position come from or usually go on to do afterward? Is there room for upward mobility? Is there a way to change the title to include some of your extra expertise? Also, think of potential for growth not just as a way to get ahead for yourself, but also ways that you can help the company expand or improve. Look at its current standings and/or projects and see if there are initiatives you can implement to fill a need or create one.

3. Map your qualifications and skills to the opportunity 
Next, take the list of the qualifications and skills for the opportunity and see how you can map your own qualifications and skills onto them. Take a look at your past work experience and highlight your accomplishments that really speak to the qualifications and skills the opportunity is looking for, being specific with numbers and statistics when applicable. This is where the field and type of position youre pursuing really come together to show that youd make a perfect candidate for the role.

If there are certain areas of your past work experience that dont exactly match the qualifications, remember that you always have transferrable skills you can use to tailor to the situation. So if being a server requires past hosting experience that you dont have, you can always refer to the secretarial or receptionist position you had for a few summers which required the same basics of hosting, such as greeting customers, answering questions, working in a fast-paced environment, directing customers to the correct areas, and handling customer concerns in a friendly and polite manner.

4. Format your elevator pitch 
So. Youve identified the opportunity youre looking for, gathered the qualifications and skills necessary to pursue that opportunity, and have mapped out your own skills and qualifications to make it apparent that youre eligible to fulfill the role. Whats next? Formatting your elevator pitch and writing it down. Lets take a look at actually creating your elevator pitch. Heres a good formula to follow that will get all your bases covered. Well cover each of them one by one:
1. Who are you?
2. What do you do?
3. What are you looking for?

Who are you? 
Keep this part short and sweet. You obviously dont want to share your life story, but itll be nice to give them a quick overview of who you are and where youre from:

Hi, Im Kaitlyn Tang. I was actually born and raised in Orange County but moved up here to the Bay Area about 3 years ago. 

What do you do?
This is the meat of your elevator pitch. This will give the person youre talking to an opportunity to learn about what you do, why youre good at it, how it relates to the qualifications/skills theyre looking for, and how it positively impacts the world around you. Big words, we know, but this is the part that shows them what you’re capable of; a taste of your abilities, you could say. A good sub-formula to follow would be the amount of experience you have, what you do, and an example of how youre good at your job and have positively impacted those around you:

Ive been in the accounting industry for over 4 years. Im great at helping clients understand their financial statements and provide a full range of accounting/tax services for SMBs looking to grow and increase their profits. Last year, I met with a small start-up looking to increase their revenue by 30%. A couple weeks ago, we celebrated during one of our quarterly check-ins and found that they exceeded that goal by an extra 10%. Theyre now expanding toward other markets and getting their foot in the door with other vendors as they continue to build brand awareness and recognition. 

What are you looking for? 
After youve given them a taste of what you do and an example of how youre doing it successfully, this is the area where you throw in what youre looking for in the position youre pursuing, such as what youre hoping to gain, achieve, and/or explore during this time in your career and how this opportunity is going to help get you there:

While I have enjoyed working with SMBs for the past several years, Im ready to take the next step toward corporate financial advising with larger companies looking to maximize their investments and insurance decisions. I understand that your company has helped many businesses in this area and I find that I could contribute and grow in an organization that values its clients the same way I do. 

5. Practice! 
The best thing that you can do for yourself to make sure that your pitch sounds as coherent and natural as possible is to practice, practice, practice. Read your first stab at your elevator pitch out loud, over and over again. Take note of the areas that may sound too formal, awkward, or may just be too much of a run-on sentence. Remember, the way we write things are completely different than the way we speak, so as youre reading out loud, replace words and phrases with others that sound more organic the way they would during an impromptu conversation youd have with your coworkers or acquaintances. Make sure your elevator pitch fits under 60 seconds; you dont want to bore the person youre speaking with and you also dont want to sound as if youre going a mile a minute trying to deliver all this information to them, which can be taxing for you and overwhelming for them. Approach your pitch with a good pace thats eloquent, informative, and also interesting. Once youve gotten your content and pace down, practice until you have hit all the necessary points. This is to say that you shouldnt memorize the pitch word for word; rather, make bullets of the topics youd like to cover in the order youd like to cover them. This way, when you actually say it, it will sound ten times more natural and not forced, giving you the ability to answer or tailor your pitch to whatever inquiries or circumstances you find yourself under.

6. Make a few variations of the same pitch
Naturally, you wont always come across the exact same opportunity twice; chances are, the more you search, the more youll find that the opportunity youre looking for comes in various shapes and forms, but with the general qualifications and skills at the base. So as you continue to look at listings for opportunities, make sure that you create a few different versions of the same elevator pitch so that it pertains more closely to the opportunity you’re pursuing. A simple example is tailoring the What youre looking for portion of your pitch to the company youre pitching to. If its a smaller company, firm, or not-for-profit, you obviously want to pinpoint how something in their company can fulfill a need or desire you have that your current company or position cant. Or, if youre aware that they value some type of qualification or skill over others, make your what I do section focused on a scenario that really brings out those qualifications/skills.

So, the next time youre at a networking event, interview, or actually find yourself in an elevator with someone youd like an opportunity with, follow these steps to leave a great impression and summary of who you are, what you do, and what youre looking for. Happy elevator pitching!

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