Five steps to perfect your elevator pitch

Elevator Up

Effectively pitch yourself to employers in less time than an average elevator ride?

It's no secret that people have short attention spans. In fact, a recent study reported that the average human's attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish. With that in mind, it's more important than ever to be able to deliver a short, clear and memorable elevator pitch. From networking events and job fairs to business meetings or informal introductions, a good elevator pitch is a great way to get off on the right foot.

Here are five ways to successfully sum up your professional credentials before those elevator doors slide open.

Focus

The entire point of an elevator pitch is to be succinct, so there is absolutely no time for tangents or less-than-relevant details.

"Keep all content in the pitch related to the target role and industry," says Adrienne Tom, resume writer and employment strategist with Career Impressions. "Telling people about your personal life in your elevator pitch is a waste of time as well as a lost opportunity to focus on how your value proposition aligns with the employer's needs."

Take your time

Given the time constraints of a typical elevator pitch, it's not uncommon for people to attempt to cram as much information into their pitch by simply talking faster. This is really the wrong approach.

"Studies show that people who speak at a slower rate of speech give the listener a sense that they are credible and confident," says Nancy Munro, CEO of KnowledgeShift. "If your vocal energy is not at the right level, the listener can sense you don't have the right level of confidence. If too strong the listener may be turned off by your pitch. Taking time to practice and receive some form of feedback will increase your chances of delivering a winning pitch."

Help me help you

On the surface, an elevator pitch should be about you, but the best elevator pitches are actually about the company. Focus on what you can offer them, rather than on what they can offer you.

"Think about your audience and what is going to resonate the most with them," says Tom. "Focus on impacts. Your career impacts are your unique offerings, so keep your elevator pitch revolving around the success and achievements you have generated as a theme throughout your career."

Customize

Similarly, an elevator pitch that is unique to the employer is much more likely to stand out in their memory than a cookie-cutter pitch recited from memory.

"My take on an elevator pitch is that it should be short, punchy, appropriately funny or cute and targeted to your audience's needs. A generic elevator pitch won't do," says Joseph Terach, CEO of Resume Deli. "If the pitch doesn't speak directly to your target audience, it can do more harm than good."

Practice

This may seem like a reversal of the previous point, but customizing your pitch and practicing it aren't mutually exclusive. Have a few key points you know you'll always address in an elevator pitch, and practice improvising ways to touch on those points in conversations with employers who have unique needs or attitudes.

"People will be interested in your pitch if you're comfortable and confident giving it," says Terach. "This means knowing your content backward and forward, and being confident enough to use non-technical, informal language to convey a technical message. Using technical language to give a high-level pitch is off-putting, confusing and shows that you're unable to break down what you do into simple terms."

"Practice, practice, and practice some more," says Tom. "If you want people to really hear what you are saying you must deliver your pitch naturally and not stammer your way through it. Nervous or mechanical overviews will detract from the content you are delivering, so practice out loud and often until it runs smooth."

The ability to deliver an effective, engaging, and natural elevator pitch is a skill that will be useful not only in your initial job search, but throughout your entire career. From business meetings to conventions and even in social situations, clearly and succinctly describing who you are and what you do is an easy way to show that you are confident and professional.