Perfect Your Elevator Pitch

How to Put Your Best Self Forward

Whether you’re interviewing for a new job, vying for a promotion or trying to build your network, it’s important to be able to present yourself in a succinct and professional way. That’s why it’s wise to develop an “elevator pitch,” a term used to describe a short and persuasive speech you can use to sell something during a 30-second elevator ride.

In this case that something is you.

The standard elevator pitch includes a quick synopsis of who you are, what you’ve done and what you hope to achieve. To introduce yourself on the phone or in a professional setting, aim to speak for about 30 seconds. Developing your speech takes preparation, and perfecting it takes practice, but it’s well worth the time and effort. Here’s how to be ready with that perfect pitch next time you need it.

Hone in on what you want to say.

Start by jotting down the basic things you need to cover: Your name, your job title (or your college info if you’re not working yet) and any significant things you’ve accomplished recently. Some things to think about: What are your special strengths and talents? What issues or causes are you passionate about? Why are you interested a particular job or type of work? Make sure that what you say is consistent across your résumé, cover letter and online profiles.

Identify your goal.

This part of your elevator speech will change depending on who your audience is, but every time you use it you need to be clear about your “ask.” Know in advance what you’d like a particular person to do for you: It might be to hire you, promote you, mentor you or just be part of a professional network you’re trying to build. And be sure to frame it in terms of what you can do for them. In other words, think about what you might say to convince the person that giving you what you ask for—a job, a contract, an opportunity—is in their best interest.

Use strong, clear language.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll sound more professional if you use business jargon or sprinkle your elevator pitch with fancy words. You won’t, you’ll just come across as pretentious. Instead, your pitch should sound genuine and conversational, delivered in a tone that feels natural and comfortable to you.

Practice, practice, practice.

First, read your prepared speech aloud and time it to make sure it’s no longer than 30 or so seconds. Don’t speed up your words to cram more in, just cut back on what you want to say or figure out how to say it more succinctly. Then record yourself and listen to how you sound: Do you come across as confident and clear? Keep practicing until you do—then ditch the script. Don’t worry about using the exact words every time: You don’t want to sound overly rehearsed.

Call on a friend.

Once you’re happy with your elevator pitch, ask a friend or family member to critique you. Were you talking too quickly, slowly, softly or loudly? Did you sound appropriately energetic and confident? Did you use a lot of filler words (“um” or “like”) or repeat a certain phrase? How was your body language? Did it convey poise and confidence? The more self-aware you are, the better you’ll come across.

Keep the conversation going.

An elevator pitch is just a starting point that hopefully will lead to a further discussion, either in the moment or at a later time. When engaging in conversation, remember that it’s not all about you. If you’re talking to a boss or influential person in your field, ask questions that will elicit a meaningful response: How did you get started in your career? What do you like best about what you do? What do you wish someone had told you at the start of your career? Then listen actively, and when the conversation ends, express your appreciation for the time the person has given you.