The Perfect Elevator Speech: Finding Success Through Self-Marketing

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on May 30, 2012 9:47:00 AM

In Job Search Tips

The perfect elevator speech hooks listeners in less than a minute and leaves them wanting more. Also called the self-marketing speech or the elevator pitch, it is a compelling summation of who you are and what you offer a company. It comes in handy during networking events, professional parties, and chance encounters, on and off the elevator. Composing your elevator speech requires careful thought and delivering it takes practice, but done well, it could open the door to your next professional opportunity.

1. The essentials. Ideally, your pitch should be 30 seconds in total and hook someone during the first 8 seconds. It must contain who you are, what you do, what you offer a company, and your desired outcome. More specifically, the beginning should draw your audience in immediately and encapsulate your identity with a unique defining characteristic. Include your profession, specific field, and position. Once you have introduced yourself, describe your current company in a couple of words, and identify it by name only if it clarifies something and/or lends some prestige. Next, relate your experience and special skills or achievements. Keep in mind this highly condensed summary should explain what you offer the company. Conclude with your desired outcome, such as the type of position you are looking for, and a few words about how you are working towards your goals in the meantime. It is a lot of information to pack into a 30-second speech but you will be surprised what you can say in a handful of sentences.

2. Use proper grammar. While we are more relaxed about grammar during conversations, you are not having an informal chat. You are selling yourself to someone, often making the most of a once in a lifetime opportunity. We do not meet our professional heroes and industry leaders every day. You want to present the most articulate and intelligent version of yourself.

3. Word choice. Word choice makes or breaks an elevator speech. Use clear, concise language and words that accurately describe who you are and what you have accomplished. Be as specific as possible and remain true to your own voice. If you can quantify one of your achievements, incorporate that number or percentage, but do not go overboard. One figure, possibly two, is all you need. Do not be redundant. Each phrase should reveal something new and create a compelling picture of who you are.

4. Avoid jargon. Every field has a shared jargon but, as a rule, using it dilutes your message. For many, business jargon is like white noise and, while heard, does not leave a lasting impression. Also, not everyone uses business jargon the same way; you do not want to undermine your speech with a colloquial misunderstanding. Similarly, it is common for certain terms to be someone’s pet peeve, unbeknownst to you. We have a rich language full of wonderful words that capture the exact essence of what we mean. Use those instead.

5. The right tone. Striking the right tone is just as important as the words you use. You should be lively and enthusiastic, but do not go overboard. It is natural to be nervous, so resist speaking too quickly or too loudly. Clearly pronouncing each word will help set the proper pace and visual cues will indicate whether you need to lower your volume or dial back some of your enthusiasm.

6. Write several drafts. Picking the right words will require several drafts but do not throw out any of them. While the goal is to refine your speech with each version, you will want to try out a few different options. You also will make changes based on feedback and you may have expressed it perfectly in an earlier draft.

7. Prepare a longer version that is a minute or less. You should be able to deliver your 30 second self-marketing pitch in the time an elevator ride takes, but there will be other occasions when you can be slightly more leisurely. You want to deliver that longer version as easily as the 30 second one. While no one is timing you, you do not want to hold people up or waste their time. Brevity is essential, so stick to your time limits and do not be redundant. Additional words should contain new information. If you do this right, you will have ample opportunity to expand upon your experience and strengths as a candidate.

8. Try it out. You should run your pitch past a few people and request constructive criticism. You should listen to it yourself as well. Call your voicemail, deliver your speech, and then play it back. While we are often hardest on our selves, we can catch things other people may not. You should have the experience of both giving and receiving your self-marketing pitch.

9. Practice. You want to be able to deliver your speech effortlessly without tripping over your words or freezing, especially since these brief encounters can be high-pressure situations. Think of the mini-biographies we tell each other during social functions when we first meet. Giving your self-marketing pitch should feel just as natural. Rehearse it, and, once you have it down, give it to as many understanding family and friends as often as their patience will allow. During an active job search, you should deliver your elevator speech at least twice a day-once to yourself and another time to an audience of one or more. If you are content in your current position, after you have memorized your speech, practice it a few times a week to keep it fresh in your mind.

10. Revise. As your career evolves, your elevator speech will change as well. Make sure the contents reflect who you are today and your most current professional experience. You will also think of better ways to express yourself by changing a word, a phrase, or even an entire sentence. Incorporate those revisions into your speech and then practice it repeatedly until the revised version becomes second nature.