Have you ever been put on the spot and asked a variation of the question “Tell me more about yourself”? How did you respond?
When I first started my career, I would struggle with this type of question and respond differently all of the time, often stumbling over my words and rambling on for minutes (which felt like hours in the moment!). This created an issue (beyond simply being embarrassing!) because the other person would walk away not having received the message that I truly wanted to deliver. It also meant that I was delivering an inconsistent message.
Fortunately, the concept of an elevator speech (pitch) was something that was introduced to me years ago and I have created a simple, two-step formula that I have used countless times over the years and it has never let me down!
A great elevator speech (pitch) communicates who you are, what you’re looking for and how you can benefit a company or organization in less than 30 seconds. When you do this well, it helps you to introduce yourself to someone in a compelling way that will help them remember you. It is referred to as an “elevator speech” because your goal should be to communicate all of this in the length of time that it would take if you were to catch yourself in an elevator with your ideal person/audience.
Once you create your elevator speech and get comfortable with sharing it, you can adapt it on the fly to any situation that presents itself.
For example, I attended a business meeting and after the meeting, a vice president that I did not know said 4 simple words to me (that I used to dread before I had my elevator speech!) “Tell me about yourself”.
Without hesitation, I was able to share with him who I was, what my role was and followed up by asking him to “tell me more about the hiring and training practices in your organization” (as I was the Training and Hiring Manager for my organization at that time and now he knew that!) If I wasn’t comfortable with my elevator speech, that would not have gone as smoothly and we may not have had the great conversation that we did.
The next time that I saw that VP, he greeted me by name and asked me a specific question about hiring. I made it easy for him by telling him who I was in a clear, concise way that he would remember.
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Here’s the formula you need to start writing an amazing elevator speech:
Be prepared to introduce yourself and help someone understand who you are in a few sentences.
Example: My name is A, I do B for C to achieve D
Example: My name is Bob Smith (A), I’m the the Training Manager for Acme Industries (B) and I’m responsible for hiring and training all employees in our company.
Now, explain what you are looking for in your next position (or how’d you like to work with them) in a way that is easy for them to understand and remember.
Example: I’m passionate about E, in my next role I F and I’m reaching out to you because G
Example: I’m passionate about creating relationships with my customers and selling face-to-face (E), in my next role I would like to challenge myself to learn more about a new industry and its customer base (F) and I’m reaching out to you to learn more about this industry because I’ve admired the work that you’ve done in your career (G).
Helpful Hint: You can modify both steps to fit the situation that you are in at the time. The key is understanding what you want to communicate in Step 1 as that (for the most part!) will remain static and you can get creative with Step 2 to tailor it to your audience.
I hope that you can now see that an elevator speech can be used in a multitude of situations; interviews, actual elevator rides, meeting new people in any situation, pitching your business or simply helping your own friends and family understand who you are and what you do in the professional world.