The old saying goes, “Opportunity is just around the corner.” Chances are that corner is located at a conference, networking meeting, or coffee with a new contact. Whatever the case, it’s important that you be prepared to introduce yourself in an engaging, succinct manner to people who know nothing of you, but will appreciate your background and skills once they hear about them.
The key to this is the elevator pitch, so-called because it’s meant to capture the listener’s attention in the time it takes to ride from a building lobby to your destination. It’s an apt phrase: You’ve got 60 seconds to convince your listener that they should get to know you.
Even if you’re fast on your feet, you can’t spin an effective pitch on the fly. You have to have it prepared in advance, so you can use it whenever the chance presents itself. These five steps will help you be ready.
To be effective, your pitch should focus on achieving a particular goal.
- Know Your Goal
To be effective, your pitch should focus on achieving a particular goal. It might be that you’re actively looking for a new job, or you may simply want to expand your network so you can raise your visibility within the industry. Either way, everything in your pitch should support the effort you have in mind.
- Identify Your Key Points
Once you know your goal, make a list of your most impressive skills, experience, affiliations and expertise that support it. For example, you may regularly publish articles on trade websites, or were part of the team that first applied predictive analytics to the use of, say, drift buoys for the Defense Department. These are the kind of things that make you stand out. Also, be sure to include business results in your thinking. If your efforts led to a 15% increase in sales, say so. Just be sure to make a specific connection between your work and the outcome.
- Write It Down
The best presentations are always prepared in advance.
Whether they’re full-blown speeches or brief pitches, the best presentations are prepared. So take your key points and turn them into a narrative – about half a page’s worth of text. Then read it aloud to hear how it sounds and identify points where you might stumble over the wording. Rewrite it until it sounds right and you can speak the words easily.
- Rehearse It With Friends
Now it’s time to take your pitch on the road. Try it out on friends, family and colleagues whom you trust will be discreet. Ask them what they took away from the pitch – what did they hear as the main points? Based on their feedback, refine it until you’re sure listeners are hearing the message you intend.
- Rehearse It Some More
Once you’ve done that, memorize and rehearse your pitch until you can share it spur of the moment, whenever the need arises. Bear in mind that you want your presentation to be engaging, not to sound like something you’re reciting by rote. So when you rehearse, pay attention to your delivery and strive to sound as natural as possible.
The ideal elevator pitch sounds spontaneous, is packed with information, and takes a lot of work to form. But the time invested will be worth it as it gets employers and industry colleagues to give you more attention.