What is a personal elevator pitch?
A personal elevator pitch is a brief introduction to yourself, skills and experience. Having a quick pitch at the ready is perfect for interviews, networking, job events or any time someone asks “so, what do you do?”
An essential tool of your personal brand toolkit is the “elevator pitch,” a 30- to 60-second message that conveys your unique value, including what you do, how you do it and for whom. It’s the oral equivalent of a short professional short bio.
For lawyers, teachers, and doctors, this can be a fairly simple and straightforward statement. Everyone has a general idea of what those professions entail. If you are a creative and work in a field that most people only vaguely understand, having a personal elevator pitch can make the difference between coming across as highly competent professional and mumbling industry jargon leaving everyone confused.
How long should a personal pitch be?
It’s called an elevator pitch because it should be something you could recite in the time you run into someone in an elevator. Generally, 30 to 60 seconds is the norm. It should leave the listener with a good sense of what you do without feeling like a monologue.
Watch for reactions, if your listeners have perked up and are actively engaged you might continue to go into more detail. If they seem confused, you might stop and try to relate it to something in an industry they know or ask if they are familiar with the field. There’s no point on getting through your personal pitch on a formality only to discover they haven’t understood a word of it.
Why is a personal elevator pitch important?
An elevator pitch is a short sales pitch that you can use when you strike up a casual conversation. It’s an effective way to get someone interested in who you are and what you do. If the listener is familiar with your type of work, you might go into more specifics and industry-specific language. If they look confused, you might give them a broader view or relate it to something from an industry they’re familiar with.
Remember, the main idea is to generate interest, not to exhaustively cover your entire career history. Keep it short and sweet.
What do I include in my personal elevator pitch?
Whenever you meet potential new contacts — at a networking event, a seminar, in the supermarket – use these 5 components to create a short introduction to yourself and get the most out of a casual encounter.
Start your elevator pitch with a hook that identifies a problem and captures your audience’s interest immediately. This could be a question or a statement; for example, “Did you know that most organizations don’t deliver a clear message to their customers?” or “Most firms have trouble delivering a clear message to their customers.”
2. Action Phrase
Follow up with an action phrase rather than a label. For example, “I help small- to medium-sized companies discover and develop their unique brand identities” rather than, “I’m a senior brand designer/consultant for small- to medium-sized companies.”
3. Unique Value
Explain what makes you unique; for example, “My work focuses on a holistic process that involves the entire organization.”
State the impact of your work on your clients/customers; for example, “I’ve seen clients enjoy increased sales when they forge a stronger brand identity.”
5. Call to Action
If there’s genuine interest, you could end your pitch with a call to action. Often this is best done by offering the other person something — offer to introduce them to someone in their field, send them the URL for a useful website or the title of a book. If you think it could lead to a job interview or a new client you can be more direct: “I’d like to continue this conversation with you” or “Why don’t I drop you an email tomorrow?”
Don’t forget to hand your listener your business card!
3 Examples of personal elevator pitches
It’s one thing to understand the concept of an elevator pitch. Quite another to actually pack your career life into 30 seconds Here are three examples of service (web designer), product (jewelry maker) and entrepreneurial (start-up) personal elevator pitches.
1. Example Elevator Pitch for Services
Service-based businesses can be tricky because often the work is invisible. Take for instance a web designer, many people have a general idea that they make websites but no idea all the complexity that goes into building even a simple website. Use your personal pitch to show your professionalism and specialty.
Hook (Get your audience’s interest): Have you focused on building your in-store presence and let your website lag behind?
Action Phrase: As a web designer, I help e-commerce businesses create a professional image and increase online conversions.
Unique Value: I primarily specialize in small to mid-size health and wellness companies.
Impact: My most recent client reported a 50% increase in sales after I redesigned their landing pages.
2. Example Elevator Pitch for Product Business
Product-based businesses are in some ways easier to explain because you have a physical or digital product to point to. However, products can get locked into a race to the bottom — you don’t want your business evaluated on how cheap your products are. Explaining the value is key to a successful product business.
Hook (Get your audience’s interest): Do you have any old family jewelry you want to keep for sentimental reasons but wouldn’t wear?
Action Phrase: I design custom-made jewelry that I sell on Etsy and my personal website.
Unique Value: You can mix and match my designs with old family jewelry to create a unique, new piece.
Impact: My designs update old family heirlooms and make them into something fun, modern and wearable.
3. Example Elevator Pitch for Start-ups
Entrepreneurial types have the challenge of trying to explain something new, which might not have even launched yet in a few words. However elevator pitches are crucial in winning funding, clients, and buyers. Start-ups need to show that they’re better than the old way of doing things in order to succeed.
Start-up Saas Founder
Hook (Get your audience’s interest): As a business owner, how much time do you spend each month on invoicing and billing?
Action Phrase: My company streamlines your billing so you can spend your time doing what you love.
Unique Value: We work closely with our users to solve the daily issues facing business owners.
Impact: Our users estimate that they spend an average of 60% less time on invoicing and billing with our software.
Barbara Morris is a writer and educator with a PhD from the University of Chicago. For the last 13 years, she’s taught writing and research at Parsons School of Design and Barnard College including white papers, design documents, grant-writing, academic research papers. She also writes marketing and web content for various Silicon Valley technology companies.