How to Keep Your Elevator Pitch from Getting Stuck Between Floors

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"The Elevator Pitch," popularized on Wall Street, quickly became one of the most effective methods available to communicate the value of a project, position or person. And it persists broadly today, though the likelihood that it actually occurs in an elevator is as remote as it is irrelevant.

The key to these "pitches" is that they fly fast and furious during meetings and introductions, over drinks or coffee and even through the phone or online in tweets, texts and e-mails, when and wherever someone has a minute (or less) to make an impression, deliver a message or present their credentials.

On Wall Street, as on Main Street, time is money, and honing your message to a razor point and editing it to a brief but dynamic presentation are the essential components of an elevator pitch. However, fast and short are not the only requirements. Preparation is required for your message to be successfully expressed and to be effectively communicated.

Capture attention immediately

Elevator pitches are most in use at networking events or at chance encounters with people who have the ability to hire or refer you. In this environment, of course, you have to be brief or you’ll lose their interest. Moreover, you need to be memorable so you will make an impression. For example, if you’re an advisor, you might say, “I help people turn their assets into dreams” instead of saying, “I manage financial accounts.”

Get to the point

It’s the bottom line—the benefits—that matter. Elevator pitches fail when you talk about the process, or how you do what you do, instead of the results. So what is a good elevator pitch? Let people know the difference you will make, and what benefit you will provide. Know your target and their needs. Do they want to save time? Make money? Improve performance? Upgrade their image?

Reinforce what you've said

As a guiding principal, it is a good thing to introduce and then to reinforce what you have said. The old axiom still holds true: tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; and then tell them what you told them.

In the end, if your pitch leads you nowhere but you find that you understand a problem or need thoroughly enough to be in a position to suggest a resource that can help, by all means offer to share this insight with your new contact.

In the spirit of networking, this type of selfless sharing can be rewarded. You may be recognized as a valuable resource; a team player who contributed without apparent benefit, or a problem solver that can do what needs to be done.

And it all starts with a powerful elevator pitch.

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