JOB SEARCH / SEP. 21, 2015
version 34, draft 34

5 Tips to Perfect Your Elevator Pitch

Anyone who’s ever tried to find a job has had to learn a difficult lesson: there are so many variables involved that anyone who tries to tell you they have the perfect recipe for success really shouldn’t be making that promise. All you can do is learn the myths and try to avoid falling into the well-known traps; You’ve heard the one about resumes only being looked at for ten seconds and made yours perfect. You’ve heard about sixty second elevator pitches that are like a spoken resume and you’ve made one of those too.

See Also: How to Enhance Your Conversation Skills

Unfortunately, despite having found multiple opportunities to use your brilliant elevator pitch, you’ve discovered that it isn’t quite as brilliant as you think, and for some reason it hasn’t been getting you anywhere. This article is going to give you a few tips on how to make it better so that your next elevator ride is a success.

1. Do you Give Your Full Name?

I’m not suggesting you forgot to say your name - if you did give your name, but you didn’t hand out your business card, then chances are that even if your pitch worked, the employer had no way of reaching out to you. It’s very important to give your full name in these occasions; if you’ve ever made a new friend and then tried to find them on Facebook without having their full name you might remember finding a few hundred possible Bobs. Do you think a potential employer is going to go through the effort of working out which one you are? Not likely.

Avoid this issue by saying your name at least twice and handing them a card at the end of the ride, especially if either one of your names is difficult to spell.

2. Is it a Dialogue or a Monologue?

The problem with being told to create a sixty second pitch is that you see it as a sixty second speech that you should memorize. If that’s what you’ve been doing, however, there are two reasons you haven’t had much success:

  1. Two people talk in a conversation. Your pitch should actually be shorter than sixty seconds, to allow time for the other person to get involved by asking some questions of their own. What was the last conversation you had that you enjoyed and remembered more: the one where you were talked at, or to?
  2. It should be a conversation, not a rehearsed speech. The more natural you sound, the easier the potential employer will find it to respond to you and encourage you to keep talking. If they feel like they’re talking to a robot, they might start wondering where the off button is or how to mute you. If possible, try to throw in some jokes - though if you know your jokes usually fall flat, save them for the water cooler.

3. Do you Tailor Your Pitch to Your Audience?

Good Wife

I know, pitches are hard, and the last thing you want to do when you finally have one is to write a few more. However, that’s exactly what you should do, so you’re ready for whatever situation comes your way. Writing other versions will also make you think about it in different ways and might even help make the "standard" one even better. Here are some different versions to consider:

  • The one for the CEO who will appreciate technical jargon
  • The one for cocktail parties and other social events where you need to talk in plain English so the person you’re talking to can easily repeat your pitch in their own words to someone else
  • The one for lower-level employees who can only let their boss know you exist and can’t actually help you themselves
  • The one for when you don’t even get sixty seconds. If you had a bad cold and were losing your voice, and could only say one sentence, what would that sentence be?

4. How do you Deliver it?

We’ve already talked about what you should say, that you shouldn’t sound like a robot and that it should be a conversation. On top of all that you should think about body language, too. Breaking eye contact can give the impression that you’re imagining your pitch written on the wall behind them, and different postures can either make you seem too laid back or too forceful.

  • Eye contact. Continuously looking away can make you look nervous or make them think you’re lying - not good when you’re trying to convince someone of your achievements - though beware of staring at them in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
  • Facial expressions. Don’t smile like a maniac, but don’t be as expressionless as a cold hearted serial killer, either. Remember to smile and be friendly, like someone they want to be talking to, and not like someone who’s trying to stay neutral while judging them - or worse, pulling too many faces.
  • Posture. Your posture can affect both how you feel and how you’re perceived; power and confidence is translated into more open gestures, while if you’re more likely to shrink into a corner or fold your arms, you look like you’re trying to hide yourself and would rather be doing anything but giving this pitch.
  • Gestures. Again, you don’t want to look like a stiff robot; at the same time, you don’t want to wave your hands around so much you risk making your pitch memorable by giving the potential employer a black eye or a broken nose. Used correctly, gestures can help to make a point or be good for counting off a list of points, and the animation can keep the other person involved; used too much, they can just be distracting.
  • Fidgeting. You already know you shouldn’t play with your hair, move around or fiddle with clothes in a job interview; elevator pitches can be used in interviews and so the same rules apply when you’re giving one in the wild.

5. To Pitch or Not to Pitch?

Okay, it’s sixty seconds, and the answer is pitch. Always pitch. The difference is whether you pitch your prepared pitch or you let the conversation progress normally. Imagine that you’re at a networking event, and for some reason you strike up a conversation with someone without realizing exactly who they are and that you should be pitching to them. When the conversation turns to the inevitable "what do you do", don’t launch into your rehearsed pitch and spoil the mood; keep up the great conversation you’re already having. The idea behind sixty seconds is that it’s the time you have in an elevator - you don’t have to stick to that time limit in other situations.

See Also: How to Create a Compelling Elevator Pitch and Increase Your Business Value

The next time you’re standing in an elevator, stop thinking about what pranks you can pull and start paying attention to who you’re with. Even if it isn’t the most important person in the company, you never know how useful someone can be to you until you try; that’s why you should have different versions of your pitch so you can pitch it to everyone from the janitor up. Keep it conversational and they won’t even realize what’s happened until they’re in their boss’s office telling them about the interesting person living in the elevator.

Do you have an elevator pitch? Have you ever pitched successfully and have some tips to add? Let us know in the comments section below.

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