If you had one minute with the person who could change your life, what would you say? Imagine I told you that tomorrow you’d be meeting Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, would you prepare?
The truth is, we are always selling whether we admit it to ourselves or not. Selling yourself is both the easiest and hardest thing to do. That’s because while you know the product better than anyone it’s easy to get shy or self conscious while touting your merits. You can’t count on your resume or your network to close the deal. It’s up to you. That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of the elevator pitch. Here’s how to perfect one.
Named for the time you’d spend with someone on an elevator, this type of pitch requires preparation. To use the earlier example, if I said you’d get a minute with Bezos tomorrow would you “wing it?” Probably not. So as you prepare your pitch, start by thinking about your personal brand. Doing this can help you focus. Maybe you’re a problem-solving engineer focused on software solutions or a content creator with a passion for the healthcare industry. Whatever your niche, you want to explain how your personal brand can help their company.
The importance of the elevator pitch is that it requires crafting a compelling personal narrative that can be delivered in a brief amount of time. You don’t want to lead with your resume or list of achievements. Instead, tell a story like how you loved writing reports in school and that led to your career as a blogger. When you think in terms of story rather than resume, you have an opportunity to showcase your unique qualities. By talking about why you are interested in what you do, you’ll be more likely to hold the interviewer’s attention. The nice thing about this tactic is that instead of asking them for a job you’re leading to a place where they give you an opportunity ––– because it’s the right thing for the company. This will help set you apart from other candidates.
Know Your Audience
Assuming you know the identity of the person listening to your pitch, do some serious research. Find out as much about them as you can from LinkedIn and other online resources. Learn about the company as well. This will allow you to say something like, “I noticed you are expanding into the leisure space which as a collector of vintage hammocks I find interesting.”
Have a Goal
When you speak to the interviewer, lay out a clear goal. This should be a natural transition from your story. You’re offering an answer to the typical, “where do you see yourself in five years?” question. But in this case, you have a prepared, polished presentation that highlights why you want to join the company in a specific role. Don’t make the job seem like a stepping stone.
Practice Makes Perfect
Actually only perfect practice makes perfect. That means becoming comfortable enough with the pitch that it doesn’t sound rehearsed and instead comes across as a natural conversation. The irony is that the best way to do this is by practicing. Work on your elevator pitch with a friend. It can also help to video your pitch so you can smooth out the rough edges and eliminate conversation pauses where you say “uh” or “umm.” You want to clearly and concisely answer the question “Tell me a little about yourself,” whether or not you were asked.
Close with an Open-Ended Question
For some reason we often remember the best listeners as good conversationalists. People who engage us with questions and truly listen to our responses. Give the person you are pitching to the same opportunity. Do this by asking an open-ended question, one that keeps the conversation going. What challenges did you face bringing in new compliance officers or how did you deal with the transition toward renewables? A well-thought out (and well delivered) question will extend your “elevator pitch” long past the time it takes a lift to reach the penthouse.
So get your pitch ready today. You never know who you’ll be sharing an elevator with tomorrow.
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