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Written by Robert LyonsRobert Lyons

How do you give a 30-second elevator pitch?

16 min read
How do you give a 30-second elevator pitch?
Artwork by:Olga Aleksandrova
Whether you’re quickly presenting yourself to a new hiring manager, trying to speak to management about a promotion, or simply presenting a new idea, crafting the perfect elevator pitch will help you give that speech efficiently and effectively.

Imagine you step into an elevator and there stands the hiring manager of the company you’ve always wanted to work for. You see the opportunity to introduce yourself and you want to seize it. But how? You’ll have to think fast: you now have the length of the short elevator ride — roughly 30 seconds — to pique their interest.

How does it go? Do you ramble anxious and unprepared through a slew of unrelated topics and fail to make your most important points? Or do you have a clear, organized speech ready to go? Have you crafted the perfect 30-second elevator pitch?

If given this brief window of opportunity, how do you present yourself effectively, efficiently, and successfully? 

The answer may be easier than you expect: follow our 5-step structure to crafting your 30-second elevator pitch and you’ll leave your audience wanting more. 

Here at Resume.io, we’ve got you covered with expert-backed advice to help you elevate your career to the next level. 

In this blog, we’ll cover:

  • What is an elevator pitch?
  • How to write a successful elevator pitch.
  • The 5 key elements of an elevator pitch.
  • Examples of an elevator pitch.
  • Tips on delivering the pitch.
  • Mistakes to avoid when writing an elevator pitch.

What is an elevator pitch?

Legend has it that elevator engineer Elisha Otis gave the first "elevator pitch." In 1853, when elevators were still considered dangerous and only as stable as their weakest rope, Otis held a presentation to demonstrate his new stopping mechanism. In front of a gathered crowd, he stood in an elevator, hoisted himself three stories up, and cut his supporting rope with an ax. The crowd gasped, but Otis's stopping mechanism slowed his elevator to a safe halt. In 30 seconds Elisha Otis demonstrated the unique value of his product.

“An elevator pitch is a distillation of a company's value proposition. It's meant to explain what is unique about the service you offer fast enough to capture the attention of your next prospect.” - cnbc.com

Obviously, the pitch doesn’t have to take place in an elevator. The term “elevator pitch” is simply defined as a brief, persuasive speech aimed at sparking interest in an idea, an organization, a product, or even you. The elevator pitch is often associated with a sales pitch, showcasing a product or service. But you can use an elevator pitch just as effectively to sell yourself as an ideal employee to a potential employer or to sell an idea to management.

It should be interesting, memorable, and, most importantly, succinct: usually 30-60 seconds. It needs to explain what makes you — or your organization, product, or idea — unique. 

What’s most important, however, is that you leave the audience wanting more. 

"The purpose of an elevator pitch is just to get me interested in asking the next question," - Nicole Glaros, chief product officer of Techstars.

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How do you write the elevator pitch?

It’s critical that you write the pitch in advance. Should you get the opportunity to deliver the pitch, you don’t want to have to rely on your improv skills. You want to write it out and practice the delivery. 

When crafting the pitch, follow these steps:

  • Identify your goal. Clarify the objective of your pitch. Do you have a great new idea that you want to pitch to management? Or do you want to pique a prospective employer’s interest?
  • Identify who you’re talking to. How well do you know this person or this company? Know their name and research to find any connecting points you might have with them.
  • Identify what you can present. List what makes you unique: hard skills, soft skills , accomplishments, and value you’ve brought to your previous employer.

What are the 5 parts of an elevator pitch?

There are multiple versions of a successful elevator pitch structure. But the overwhelming consensus boils it down to these 5 steps:

1. Explain who you are

Start your pitch by briefly describing who you are and what you do. Give them some background context and focus on a function you’ve had for a previous employer.

2. Make a connection

This is where your research comes in. Are they any connecting points between you and the person you’re talking to? Are there people you know in their organization, a project they worked on you admired, or references you could point to?

Keep it professional. You want to make a connection, but not get too personal. Pointing out where their kids go to school, for example, is way off-limits.

3. Communicate your USP

Now it’s time to communicate your UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION or USP. 

The Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is the feature that makes a product, service, business, or person unique. This feature showcases precisely why someone should buy something right now: it’s lighter or faster or more effective. 

A USP is often associated with sales pitches, but when introducing yourself to a potential employer, are you not “selling yourself” as an asset to their company? As a job seeker, this is where you state your unique value to the potential employer. 

To identify your USP, start with your skills : a particular qualification you have, a pinpoint example of added value you brought to your previous employer, or how you would fit in with their company.

Employers want to know how you can benefit them in ways others can’t: 

  • How much money can you save them?
  • What markets can you expand into?
  • What problems can you solve?
  • If you can, add information or statistics that show the value you’ve brought to others.

4. Engage with a question

After you communicate your value, you need to engage your audience. The easiest way to do this: ask an open-ended question. For example:

  • Ask them about a specific process in their organization:
    • "So, how does your organization handle onboarding?"
    • “How did the acquisition go?”
  • Or ask for their opinion on something:
    • “How do you see the X trend developing?”

For one, showing them you value their expertise will make them feel important and will make them want to talk to you. For another, if you can get them talking, you’re already starting a dialogue. 

5. State your ask or your call to action

Time to finally get to it: state what you want. This is the entire point of your speech: to get the person to give you something - whether that is an interview, a meeting, or consideration. So deliver your “Ask” or “Call To Action” in a way that will get what you want. For example:

“Are you available this week to speak further on this?”

“Could we set up a call to discuss this proposal?”

Consider this:

  • Be clear and specific. Be as concise as possible, ask for exactly what you want, and phrase it carefully. More often than not, you get exactly what request.
  • Ask from the heart. If this is truly something you desire, let that honesty shine through. Believe in your purpose, look them in the eye, and be direct. This establishes your integrity and passion on the subject.
  • Ask for something they can actually give you. Find out if this person can actually grant you the interview or time you’re requesting. Is there a hiring freeze? Is this person still in that position? Is your request reasonable or are you asking for the impossible?
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Examples of an Elevator Pitch

Example #1

“Hi, my name is Sandy. It’s so nice to meet you! I’m a PR manager. I specialize in product launches. I’ve been at it for 7 years now and I recently received my MBA with a CRM focus. My friend Katie, who used to work for you, told me about the innovative and refreshing work your PR team does. I’d love the opportunity to put my expertise to work for your company. Would you mind if I set up a quick call next week for us to talk about any upcoming opportunities on your team?”

Example #2

“Hi, my name is Kyle! It’s great to meet you. You’re with Alpha Industries, right? You all do such great work. I read that you’re looking for project management help. I was a project manager at Beta software for about 9 years. In my experience, any team needs help coordinating team communication. That’s why I lead a project to implement a software tool that helps our teams organize their projects. It optimized our workflow by 30%. I’m a huge admirer of your company and I’d be very interested in talking to you about the project manager position. Would you have time to speak this week?”

Example #3

“Hi, I’m Tom. I’m a Media Planner. As a freelancer, I’ve developed strategic media plans for top clients, some of whom were companies just like yours. One of my proudest achievements was a project for a tech company last year that integrated several media and social media platforms. I’ve noticed your media strategies are restricted to only a few platforms. Have you thought about expanding your reach? I’ve been able to drive traffic for your competitors by 45%. Would you mind telling me about any media planning needs you may have?”

Example #4

“I’m Andrew Finn. I’m a huge fan of your software. I read that you were directly involved with its development. Is that true? I’ve worked in coding for eight years. I recently wrapped up a contract as a senior programmer with Alias Bioinformatics. I’m now looking for opportunities with other software companies. Would it be possible to speak next week about any opportunities you might have?”

Example #5

“Hi, I’m Steve Davidson. I just graduated with a Business degree from Wallace University. I saw the talk you gave there last year. Your thoughts on vertical integration greatly influenced my final thesis. Do you still believe SAP is the best platform for that? I’ve completed a few internships in marketing and I’m ready to contribute to the vision of a leading marketing firm. I’d love to work for a firm where I could learn and grow while offering my energy and creativity. Would it be possible to set up an interview in the near future?

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Once it’s written, how do I deliver the elevator pitch?

  • Look your best. Make sure you’re well-dressed and presentable for your conversation. If it’s taking place online, have a clean and professional background and make sure you're well-lit.
  • Look them in the eye. It’s critical that you come across as honest, direct, and trustworthy. That begins with looking the person you’re talking to in the eye. Make this a part of practicing your pitch. Again, if it’s to be online , try practicing looking at the camera.
  • Keep up the energy. Avoid being monotone, shy or down. Remember your purpose for this chat.
  • Balance the pace. Avoid speaking too quickly. You want it to sound like a smooth conversation, not an aggressive sales pitch.
  • Be calm and confident. Believe in your message and your request. Be confident they’ll be interested and you’ll project that.
  • Mind your body language. The conversation begins with your posture and presence. Smile and stand or sit up straight. When you’re slouched over, you look unreliable and uninterested.
Expert tip

Practice!

Practice makes perfect. Remember, how you say something is just as important as what you say. Practice giving your pitch to ensure you don’t talk too fast, sound unnatural, or forget important elements of your pitch. Have friends listen to you and give you feedback.

Common mistakes of delivering an elevator pitch

  • Speaking too fast. Sure you only have limited time to convey a lot of info. But if you just speak too fast, you’ll only make it hard for others to absorb your message.
  • Rambling. This is why it's so important to practice your elevator speech. Have a set structure of your points and rehearse them until they become natural. At the same time, give the person you’re talking to an opportunity to respond.
  • Being negative. You want to present your accomplishments, but don’t do so by talking negatively about your colleagues.
  • Using too much jargon. You might think everyone knows the lingo of your company or industry, but don’t be so sure. Not everyone can clue in on your jargon so quickly.
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Key takeaways

  1. Make sure that you write out your elevator pitch in advance.
  2. By following the 5-step structure you can keep it concise and on-point.
  3. You should always stay calm and confident when delivering it.
  4. When you’ve written the pitch, practice your delivery until it’s ready.
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