Introducing yourself well sets the stage for a professional conversation, whether that’s at a networking event, with a colleague or at the beginning of an interview. One too many people use to make introductions simple and effective is the elevator pitch.
A personal elevator pitch is a quick summary of yourself. It’s named for the time it takes to ride an elevator from bottom to top of a building. Elevator pitches are sometimes thought to be specific to an idea or a product, but having a pitch to sell yourself as a professional is a common use case for elevator pitches, too. An elevator pitch or elevator speech is a short overview of your business, products or services, and is typically used in business settings such as face-to-face networking. An elevator pitch can be one of the simplest yet most powerful tools for a small business owner.
An elevator pitch is meant to be short, and as the name implies, delivered in the time it takes to complete your average elevator ride. The length can vary, but you typically want to be able to present your elevator pitch comfortably without rushing in under two minutes, ideally in under one minute. Your goal length should be 150-250 words.
Why are they important?
Some people think that this kind of thing is only useful for salespeople who need to pitch their products and services. But you can also use them in other situations. An elevator pitch will be useful to have ready throughout the interview process as it is typically a great icebreaker to start a conversation. From phone screen to in-person interview, you’ll be asked to provide a summary of who you are, your background and what you want from your next job. The elevator pitch can also be a helpful framework as you’re planning your answer to the popular interview question, “Tell me about yourself”, or considering what to include in a cover letter.
Another benefit of a personal elevator pitch is that it prepares you to introduce yourself when exciting opportunities present themselves in everyday life. At a networking event, maybe even in an actual elevator, the pitch can quickly help new contacts understand why they should connect with you or consider you when an opportunity arises.
An advantage to using an elevator pitch when speaking about your career or aspirations is that you can take the lead. Instead of waiting on the other party to direct the conversation, you can assertively explain what you have to offer. In many interactions, such as a job interview or mentorship proposition, this can be a relief to your audience—they will be glad to see you know both what you want and how to ask for it.
How to write an elevator pitch
Your elevator pitch should answer the following questions: Who are you? What do you do? What do you want?
Start by introducing yourself
As you approach someone to pitch to, whether that’s at an event, interview or anything in between, start off with an introduction. Give your full name, smile, extend your hand for a handshake and add a pleasantry like, “It’s nice to meet you!”.
Provide a summary of what you do
This is where you’ll give a brief summary of your background. You should include the most relevant information like your education, work experience and/or any key specialties or strengths. If you’re not sure what to include, try writing everything that comes to mind down on a piece of paper. Once you’ve recorded everything, go through and remove everything that’s not absolutely critical to explaining your background and why you’ve got what your audience may be looking for. Consider the most important highlights in your resume. Once you’ve got it down to just a few points, organize them in a way that makes sense in your story.
Here’s an example:
“Hi, my name is Pascal Okeke. It’s so nice to meet you! I’m a Startup Evangelist with a special focus in overseeing successful startups launches and secures investment from South East Nigeria. Along with my seven years of professional experience, I recently graduated with my MBA from XYZ University, with a focus on business development and strategies…”
Explain what you want
This step will depend on what you’re using the pitch for. The “ask” of your pitch could be a consideration for a job opportunity, internship, or simply to get contact information. This is a good opportunity to explain the value you’ll bring, why you’re a good fit for a job, or generally what your audience has to gain from your interaction. Focus on what you have to offer during this section of the speech.
Let’s go back to Sara’s pitch:
“ Hi, my name is Pascal Okeke. It’s so nice to meet you! I’m a Startup Evangelist with a special focus in overseeing successful startups launches and secures investment from South East Nigeria. Along with my seven years of professional experience, I recently graduated with my MBA from XYZ University, with a focus on business development and strategies. I find the work your startup does to be innovating and refreshing—I’d love the opportunity to put my expertise to work for your company…”
Finish with a call to action
You should end your elevator pitch by asking for what you want to happen next. If you feel an elevator pitch is appropriate for a certain situation, begin with the goal of gaining a new insight or next steps. Examples can include asking for a meeting, expressing interest in a job, confirming you’ve fully answered an interview question, or asking someone to be your mentor.
Asking for what you want can be intimidating, but it’s important you give the conversation an action item instead letting it come to a dead end. Remember: You’ve just met this person, so make the ask simple with little required on their part. Here’s an example from the pitch we’ve been building:
“ Hi, my name is Pascal Okeke. It’s so nice to meet you! I’m a Startup Evangelist with a special focus in overseeing successful startups launches and secures investment from South East Nigeria. Along with my seven years of professional experience, I recently graduated with my MBA from XYZ University, with a focus on business development and strategies. I find the work your startup does to be innovating and refreshing—I’d love the opportunity to put my expertise to work for your company. Would you mind if I set up a quick call next week for us to talk about any upcoming opportunities on your team?”
If they agree to your request, be sure to thank them for their time and get their contact information. End the conversation with a concise and action-oriented farewell, such as, “Thank you for your time, I’ll send you a follow-up email tonight. Have a great day!”. If they don’t agree to your request, gracefully end the conversation with a polite, “I understand, thank you for your time! If it’s all right, I’ll send you a follow-up email and see if there’s a better time for us to connect.”
Elevator pitch examples
Let’s take a look at some additional elevator pitch examples from a variety of job titles and situations you can refer back to when creating your own:
Context: In an interview
Job Title: Executive Assistant
“Hi, my name is Mark. Thanks so much for sitting down with me today. After graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, I’ve spent the last three years building professional experience as an Executive Assistant. I’ve successfully managed end-to-end event coordination and have generated a strong professional network for my colleagues. I was excited to learn about this opportunity in the sports management space—I’ve always been passionate about the way sports brings cultures together, and would love the opportunity to bring my project management and leadership abilities to this position.”
Context: Seeking a mentor
Job Title: Graphic Designer
“Hi, I’m Molly, so nice to meet you! I’m a Graphic Designer at ABC Inc., where I’m passionate about creating beautiful, intuitive designs for a variety of marketing collateral for our top-tier clients. Before that, I got my Masters in Graphic Design. I’m looking for experiences to learn more about career paths and ways to grow into assuming an Art Director role in the next few years. Your work with XYZ brand has inspired the ways I think about design—I would love to talk more about a potential mentorship with you if that’s something you have time for and would be interested in.”
Context: Adding a contact
Job Title: Business Analyst
“Hello! My name is Anwar, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I have a background in Business Analytics with just over 10 years experience creating data-driven solutions for various business problems. Specifically, I love and have had great success in the strategic evaluation of data analysis with our executive staff. It sounds like you do similar work—I would love to keep in touch to learn more about what you and your company do.”
Context: Seeking a job opportunity
Job Title: Media Planner
“Hi, I’m Tom. I’ve spent the last eight years learning and growing in my role as Media Planner, where I’ve developed and optimized strategic media plans for our top client and managed a subset of planners as a Team Lead. One of my proudest achievements was a pro-bono project that was recognized as a top non-profit campaign last year. I’ve been interested in moving to non-profit for quite a while, and love what your company does in education. Would you mind telling me about any media planning needs you may have on the team?”
Elevator pitch final tips
After you’ve taken time to develop a pitch that’s focused on your background and immediate goals, practice and refine it. Reading your elevator pitch out loud to yourself can reveal any mistakes, opportunities for better wording or extraneous information that might distract from your main points. Ask a friend to help you practice out loud and give feedback to start polishing your speech. Here are a few tips on delivery as you practice:
Take your time
An elevator pitch is a quick conversation by nature, but try to avoid speaking too fast. Keeping your pitch to around 75 words should help you deliver optimal information in a clear, digestible way. Be mindful of rushing through it or trying to add in too much information.
Make it conversational
It’s good to plan your elevator pitch out ahead of time and practice, but you should avoid sounding rehearsed in delivery. A good way to keep the pitch conversational is to memorize a general outline or key points of your speech. Keep this structure in the back of your mind and adapt your pitch for each person you give it to. For example, if you’re talking to someone you’ve just met, keep the conversation general, focused on your background and possibly state if you’re seeking new opportunities. If you’re talking to someone you want to work with, it’s important to refer to their open position or company, and how specifically you can provide value.
Avoid niche words and phrases
Using acronyms, technical terms or industry-specific words and phrases can limit your elevator pitch by confusing or alienating your audience. You’ll want to be able to speak to people with a variety of backgrounds, so try replacing with general, easy to understand language. Asking friends or family for feedback can be useful for this step.
Even the best elevator pitch can lose its effectiveness if your delivery lacks confidence. Keep your chest high, shoulders back and smile when meeting someone and delivering your pitch. Use a strong speaking voice to show confidence in your experience and what you want in the future. If you’re nervous, try mentally reversing roles: If you were the person being pitched to, you’d likely be happy to listen and help the inquirer as best you could.
There is potential that your audience won’t be open to hearing your pitch. If it’s not the right time or the person you’re speaking to doesn’t seem receptive, gracefully draw back. If you’ve asked for an in person meeting and they’ve said no, you can ask if they’d prefer email or a phone call. If you get the sense at any point that the conversation is an inconvenience, use this opportunity to negotiate for a lesser ask. Leave the conversation with empathy for your audience: you prepared a speech and they weren’t expecting it—you can probably relate to the feeling of being caught of guard.
Developing an elevator pitch one step at a time makes it simple to create a speech that can be used in any professional situation. Elevator pitches can be helpful as you take them into your next networking event or interview. Your elevator pitch could the beginning of a new opportunity, so draft, review, refine and deliver with confidence.
Hope this helps!