Monday, July 8, 2013

Going Up! Elevator Pitch 101

Undeniably, one of the most helpful classes I took during my college career was Business Communications. During the first few weeks of class the professor insisted I develop an Elevator Pitch.

What exactly is an Elevator Pitch?

An "elevator pitch" in regards to internship and job searching includes a 30 second overview of an individual's knowledge, skills, and accomplishments. The term comes from the time it takes to complete a normal (emphasis on normal, I can't tell you how many times I've unfortunately been stuck in elevators) elevator ride from the top to the bottom floor. It's an opportunity to get your point across in a timely manner; namely, who you are, what you've accomplished, and where you hope to go in the future.

Whether or not the origin of the term actually came from running into important people in elevators and delivering a short and clear sales pitch in the time it takes to ride the elevator, one thing is certain–-it’s important instrument to have in your tool kit.

In looking to define  "elevator pitch" for you all I stumbled onto Wikipedia to see what they had to say (which isn't much at all)...

An elevator pitchelevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.[1]
The name "elevator pitch" reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.[2][3] The term itself comes from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator. If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, the conversation will continue after the elevator ride or end in exchange of business card or a scheduled meeting.[4]
A variety of people, including project managerssalespeopleevangelists, and policy-makers, commonly rehearse and use elevator pitches to get their point across quickly. An example is pitching an idea to a venture capitalist or angel investor to receive funding. Venture capitalists often judge the quality of an idea by the quality of its elevator pitch and will ask entrepreneurs for their elevator pitches in order to quickly weed out bad ideas and weak teams. Elevator pitches are also used in many other situations. Personal uses include job interviewing, dating, and summarizing professional services.
What this entry does not emphasize is the importance of the elevator pitch, for EVERYONE especially beginning professionals and college students. It also fails to mention just how often the pitch can be utilized, how to build one, and that a pitch is not a one size fits all model.

I decided to tack on information discussing why an elevator speech is important and what an elevator pitch should include:

The uses of an Elevator Pitch go beyond giving a brief introduction in an elevator. There are many more likely uses such as cover letters, email introductions, mentor requests, introductions at career fairs, introductions in interviews, casual networking encounters and leaving voice mails.  The elevator pitch is so important because it is the first thing that people ever hear or read about you.  Even before your resume, or proposal gets in their hands, your elevator pitch sets the stage for why they would spend the time to look at your resume, proposal or presentation, which leads to an interview or meeting, which leads to the job offer or grant.
The key to using your elevator pitch for the variety of settings listed above is to get the foundation right. 
- First, the pitch should be short. The base of your pitch should take no more than one 1 minute to recite or 200 words to write. It  should include who you are plus a credential, you should think of your credential as either something that differentiates you from you peers or something that establishes a relationship or similarity between you and your audience. 
The speech should contain a specific objective. Get to the point quickly about what you are looking for or how that person can help. Your objective should be something that the person can directly facilitate either by making the decision him or herself or connecting you to someone that can get you closer to that objective.
Your Elevator pitch needs to show how you have demonstrated your interest. Give examples of things that you have ALREADY completed or committed to that illustrate this interest.  E.g) Don`t just say that "I have always want to be an doctor". You should be able to say, "I have taken pre-med courses."
Briefly discuss why you are qualified. This is your chance to communicate what makes you someone that your audience should consider helping.  People typically like to help those that they feel will be successful in the process.  There are a couple of things you should think about when highlighting your qualifications: Include your industry relevance, leadership, expertise, pedigree and impact
 - Lastly, give the audience two options on how they can assist. This is an old sales trick.  Always give two options.  A person will often flatly turn you down if you give them one option, but if you give them two options, then they often commit to one of them.  This is different than communicating your objective.  As I mentioned above, the objective is the end goal; here you want to communicate how the person can help you in the process that leads to that end goal.
This strategy is transferable whether you are looking to market yourself, a product or a company. No elevator pitch is "one size fits all" and often need to be moderated depending on the purpose or audience of your elevator pitch.

I cannot emphasize just how much  an elevator pitch can help round out your job hunting arsenal. I'm sure many of my readers aren't as lucky (for lack of a better word, I mean really, how lucky can you be about getting assigned homework!?) to be forced into writing a speech for class and getting it reviewed by a professor who worked in the business sector for over 30 years prior to teaching.

If you need help getting started on your pitch, or getting your pitch reviewed, utilize your career service office! Also, here is a cool tool you can use: The Harvard Business School (ooooooh Harvard) created an Elevator Pitch Builder to begin your "pitchcraft" as they put it, definitely worth checking it out!
Harvard Business School Elevator Pitch Builder

So get to writing! And always remember...

 Be authentic. Be brief. And above all: Be Ready!


  1. I like the elevator pitch! Its definitely an effective way to get your point across in a timely manner!

  2. Great term! Thanks for adding it to Wiki!