How to Develop an Effective Elevator Pitch

Elevators in corporate office hold quite a few people. In this instance, the Editor-in-chief and CEO of the magazine I had just interviewed to intern for was standing next to me.

He turned his head and looked at me quizzically.

"Do you work for me?" he asked me.

"Not yet," came out of my mouth. And the entire elevator filled with business professionals became incredibly quiet.

He was taken aback at first. Then he laughed and everyone laughed.

"Good answer," he told me.

My academic advisor died laughing. She said that was the shortest elevator pitch she's ever heard. I was surprised I had an elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is a clear, brief summary about you, your work and what you can do for a company. Think of it as an oral cover letter that's 30 seconds or less. It's quick—normally the length of an elevator ride— hence the name. An effective pitch normally has three parts.

Start with who are you. It's pretty basic. Summarize your skills and unique traits into clear, concise thoughts. Emphasizing your distinctive take on a skill is important to standing out. If you're a social media expert, what is your area of expertise? "I am adept at turning niche content into viral hits on Instagram and Twitter" is far more memorable than "I am a social media savvy millennial."

The second piece is your ask or your goal. Are you looking for an opportunity to work with or for a company? Or are you asking from an interview, advice, or connections? Be honest and specific about what you want. It shows you have a goal in mind and are interested in completing the necessary steps to achieve the goal.

End with your why. Why do you want what you are pitching for? It needs to be genuine and or compelling, because otherwise why grant your request? "I want help people" or "I want to make your company better" is not enough. "I'm interested continuing research in food production in countries with high malnutrition rates in order to find a reliable solution to improving children's health." Or "I believe in your company's philosophy and helping you helps bring a bigger audience to the issue of the pay gap."

Once you've put all of your pieces together, it's time to practice delivery. There's a very fine line between being confident and cocky. Don't promise the moon when you know you can't deliver it. Knowing how to tip toe the line into delivering a strong, elevator pitch takes practice. Try your elevator pitch to yourself in a mirror. Then try it on friends and family until you can deliver it with confidence and without stuttering.

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