You meet someone for the first time. Maybe it’s at the coffee shop on the corner, at a cocktail party, a seminar, or a networking event. After exchanging names and commenting on the scene, this new acquaintance asks, “So, what do you do?” Now is the moment for your elevator pitch! And yes, it’s the one thing you have totally NOT been working on but always plan to…someday. Am I right?
While going through a career transition, this type of situation is your one chance to make a great first impression and your opportunity to persuade another person to offer their assistance, one way or another.
The reality is that most people never work on their elevator pitch and when the question is asked, they blow it. I’ve lost count of the number of times that someone has given me a full download of their entire career history but still didn’t tell me what they want to do. Similarly, the same thing is happening when someone tells me about 4 different options they are considering. Regardless, I don’t know how to help them and probably won’t try.
I’m dying to hear a killer elevator pitch, one that will have me volunteering to make introductions and help them out in any way I can. In my opinion, a fantastic elevator pitch starts and ends with someone being real and believing in themselves.
As you embark on creating your pitch, I want you to give yourself permission to tell the truth about who you are, what really fires you up, and what you’re great at. I want you to stop worrying about what someone might think of you if you speak your truth. I want you to know that even if someone doesn't “get it”, that is not a reflection of you, it’s a reflection of them. The ones who do get it, will be clamoring to help you out and will become your biggest fans.
The last thing you want is a boring elevator pitch. If you’re bored by your elevator pitch, I guarantee you that the other person is too. Throw out the tired script (if you even have one) and get ready to blow the doors open and let ‘er rip!
Let’s take a look at what I think are the three key elements to a memorable, intriguing elevator pitch:
1. Evoke interest and curiosity
While it is important to make it clear what you want to do next in your career, it doesn’t have to be as specific as you think. Kick off your pitch with one sentence that provides a high level description. For example, “I’m a social media expert” or “I’m currently in strategy consulting but what I really want to do is develop the next generation of leaders.” You’re leading off with what you’ll be doing next, not what you’re doing now or most recently.
The next few sentences can be about the coolest aspects of the job that fire you up. Go hog wild with your description. Say something that has the other person thinking, “wow, they’re really into this.” An analogy or metaphor can also help ground it and make it universally understood. Have fun with it and invite in your creativity. Don’t worry about being “professional.” Just be you, authentic you. That's what people are really curious about.
2. WHY is everything
The thing that really hooks people is WHY you do what you do. This is your chance to really connect with the other person. At this point, they don’t yet care about your background and experience. They will be more intrigued by your passion, the difference you want to make, or the impact you want to have as a result of your career choice. You know why? Because hardly anyone else talks about it and it’s really freaking interesting. Find a way to say it in one sentence. It should be audacious and bold. Purpose, aliveness, and vitality is intoxicating. Let them drink it in.
3. Express authentic enthusiasm
When you’re around someone who is enthusiastic about something, don’t you become more engaged? Enthusiasm and positive energy are contagious. Keep practicing your pitch until it makes you feel genuinely excited to say it. When it’s right, you will physically feel the excitement in your body, so use that as your guide. Then, the next time you’re confronted with the question, “what do you do?”, take a breath, let a smile form on your lips, and then let ‘er rip!
When you combine these three elements and can express them in just 30 seconds, you will be amazed at how much more engaged others will be with you and want to further the conversation.
I got so excited about this topic that I decided to make a video in which I demonstrate two different versions of my own elevator pitch. The second one is where I employ the three unique elements. (Please forgive the “skinny” video. I’m such a novice! )
It can take time for a fantastic elevator pitch to emerge and form. The key is to practice, practice, practice. Please promise me you won’t just practice in front of the mirror, but will attempt it with real people. Get out there and try it on for size. See what resonates for you and others. However, don’t assume that if one person doesn’t respond well that your elevator pitch sucks. Keep trying and see how it lands.
Finally, it’s not about scripting it perfectly but rather knowing the essence and speaking it from your heart, not your head. It should always be in your own words, in your own way. This isn’t about putting on a show but showing who you really are and what fires you up.
Here’s my challenge for you:
In the comments below, share one thing that fires you up in your career (or the one your dream of). For me, as you know, it’s bringing people back to life in their careers. What’s yours?