An elevator speech or ‘pitch’ has become a critical aspect to the personal branding and job search process. These few words describe what a professional has accomplished in their career, their interests and represent their expertise. An elevator speech should be a part of every individual’s tool kit regardless of their employment status.
What is an elevator speech?
An elevator speech is a clear, brief message or “commercial” about you. It communicates who you are, what you're looking for and how you can benefit a company or organization. It's typically about 30 seconds, the time it takes people to ride from the top to the bottom of a building in an elevator.
Identify your objective
You can initiate this process by identifying what you want to achieve from this speech. Your elevator speech should answer 3 critical questions –
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- What are you looking for?
Knowing your objective will help you carve out the path ahead and create the pitch.
Put your thoughts down
Refer to your resume and compile a list of your achievements. Identify what makes you unique and craft your value proposition in a few simple words. You should introduce your value proposition after you’ve talked about what you do.
Write down everything you’d want a prospective employer or new contact to know about your skills, accomplishments and work experiences that are relevant to your objective. “Then grab a red pen and mercilessly delete everything that’s not critical to your pitch.”
Keep editing until your speech is now a few key bullet points or sentences. Your goal is to interest the listener in learning more, not to tell your whole career history. So remove extraneous details that detract from your core message.
Create a strong story
Once you have all your points down, weave them together to make an engaging hook. Your listeners will always be looking to find out what is in it for them. Your message should be directed towards giving them just that.
Self-improvement guru Dale Carnegie reflects in his book Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business, that our minds are essentially “associate machines,” which means we remember things better when there is a story or association attached to the subject. In other words, if you want people to remember you, tell them a story and make sure it’s good.
Call to action
Have a clear call to action in your speech. You should communicate your goal to the person you are speaking or pitching to. This brings more clarity and gives context to the listener.
Practice makes perfect. Lack of practice may result in you talking too fast, sounding unnatural or forget critical elements of your speech. The more you practice, the better you will be at delivering your elevator speech. Time yourself so your speech does not exceed the time span of an elevator ride
Very few people have the oratorical power to make compelling 15 second speeches about their entire professional lives on demand and under pressure. Practice your speech 100 times & more literally. Know it, get comfortable with it, be able to tilt it effectively for a different audience. Practice your body language with it: how will you give the speech differently sitting down vs. while walking down a hall?
Practice it by pitching it to your friends and colleagues. Continue to tweak your content and practice being a natural speaker for your next elevator encounter.