7 Fool-Proof Tips for Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch

Closeup of businessman holding piece of paper saying 'elevator pitch'

If you’re hoping to find a new job, one of the things that you can definitely benefit from is learning how to craft the perfect elevator pitch. Commonly known as the 60-second infomercial, elevator pitches are meant to describe and, more importantly, sell who you are in 1 minute or less.

And, nowadays, being able to sell yourself in the shortest amount of time possible is essential to get ahead in your career.

To help you stand apart from the competition and get noticed by potential employers, we’ve compiled a list of insightful and practical tips for crafting the perfect elevator pitch.

1. Start with the Why

Condensing your identity into a few sentences may sound like an impossible task, but all it really boils down to is answering a few basic questions, namely:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I do?
  • Why do what I do?
  • Who am I doing It for?

When drafting your answers, be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to be creative. Say, for example, that you’re an aspiring children’s book writer; you could say something like: ‘Hi, I’m John Smith and I teach kids how to defeat dragons.’ It may sound unconventional, but it also begs for a follow-up and it most certainly makes John stand out from the crowd.

2. Improve Your Storytelling

Once you’re clear about who you are and why you do what you do, the next step to perfecting your pitch is coming up with a captivating story.

To stand out, it’s not enough to have impressive grades and credentials. In the absence of brilliant storytelling, all this data will just appear as cold, hard facts. On the other hand, stories have always been the more effective tool to gain people’s trust.

If you were the editor of your school paper, for example, don't just say you were the editor but rather use instances that show how your publication made an impact to its readers. Share an anecdote on how your article about the underdog team helped raise funds for their next basketball game.

In other words, show – rather than tell – how you’re exactly the kind of candidate they’re looking for. By doing this, you’re guaranteed to have a more effective and memorable pitch.

3. Have an Endgame

There’s no bigger turn-off than a half-baked concept. Think about it: how many times have you lost interest in a guy or girl who didn’t have direction?

The same holds true when you pitch. Once you have people invested in who you are, their next question would naturally be: where do you see yourself five years from now? Rather than giving a cliché response like ‘I want to be where you’re sitting’ or ‘I want to be a publisher’, aim for something more unique such as ‘I want to usher in a new era of Harry Potter books by publishing quality children literature’.

Having a long-term vision for yourself is always attractive to any potential employer. But be careful not to bore them with specific details. Instead, focus on what you hope to achieve in the future and how you believe you can get there.

4. Keep it Simple

One popular misconception in crafting an elevator pitch is the idea that you can impress a future boss by using highfaluting words. Do yourself and the rest of the world a favour by not doing this. Ever.

After all, if you can’t explain who you are and what you're selling in simple terms, chances are the person you’re pitching to won’t understand it, either. You’re also more likely to mess up when you use unnecessary words that only muddle your pitch rather than make it stand out. Better to save space in your memory for the more important things than drown them in clutter!

5. Practise (and Practise Some More)

Crafting the perfect elevator pitch is useless if it only appears perfect on paper. The best way to know if you’ve made an effective pitch is to practise it out loud, preferably with a stopwatch so you can make the best use of your time. For example, are you saying too much or too little? Are you talking too fast or too slow?

It’s also very important to rehearse your pitch in front of a mirror. Even if you speak eloquently, there will be moments when you’re not aware of how your hands or feet look. It could be that they’re awkwardly stiff or flailing too much. These gestures are sure to distract your intended audience from what you’re saying, and they will eventually forget about what you’re pitching. Knowing how you look will make you more confident when the actual day comes.

Lastly, make it a habit to practise your elevator pitch every day; after all, you never know when the opportunity to use it will come knocking on your door!

6. Dress for Success

Many factors go into crafting an elevator pitch. There’s the tempo of your speech, the tone of your voice, the movements of your hands – the list goes on and on. And while these things are undoubtedly very important, oftentimes people overlook a basic but fundamental factor when it comes to pitching: their appearance.

You could be the most intellectually prepared individual in the world, but if you come to work, a business presentation or a job interview looking like you’ve only had two hours of sleep while wearing wrinkled clothes that reek of yesterday’s trash, then don’t expect to be taken seriously.

It may sound superficial, but your outward appearance can – and will – greatly affect your pitch. You don’t have to own the most expensive suit or wear the most fashionable shoes, but a modicum of cleanliness and professionalism is expected.

You might have an outrageously remarkable CV and stellar work experience, but if no one can stand the sight (or, worse, the smell) of you, it doesn’t really matter how well you pitch because, in the end, no one will bother to listen.

7. Always Be Positive

There are a lot of unpredictable variables when it comes determining the success or failure of an elevator pitch. It could be that the boss had a bad morning or maybe someone spilled coffee on your shirt on the way to work. Whatever the circumstance, don’t take it as a sign that the universe is out to get you.

While you have no control over what other people around you feel, always remember that the impact of your pitch will largely depend on how you feel. So, don’t let a bad day side-track you from all the hard work you put into crafting your elevator pitch. Smile, relax and take stock in the fact that a positive attitude combined with a well-prepared mind are the best tools against the annoyingly fickle fingers of fate.

Elevator pitches can be intimidating at first, but with enough patience and practice, anyone can become a pro in just a few simple steps. By following these tips, you're sure to land your dream job in no time!

Have any tips you’d like to share? Join the discussion in the comments section below!