Why You Should Have a Personal Elevator Pitch (And How to Make One)

February 14, 2018

Here's how and why you should perfect your personal elevator pitch.

Most of the time, whenever we meet someone new, there’s a pleasant exchange of names and perhaps a handshake. And then there’s usually a moment of awkward silence, as somebody searches for something to say.

Usually, what’s said next is a generic question or a generic statement, which is met by a generic response. And then the conversation will either last for a minute or so, until one of you makes an excuse to do something else.

Hardly inspirational.

How do you change that? How can you quickly cut through that and determine if this person is worth networking with or not?

Leadership guru and LinkedIn Learning Instructor Todd Dewett has a simple answer – the personal elevator pitch.

What’s a personal elevator pitch?

A personal elevator pitch is basically a prepared, 30-second spiel you give when you introduce yourself. Here are two examples of good personal elevator pitches Dewett gave in his LinkedIn Learning course, Giving Your Elevator Pitch:

  • “My background is manufacturing, mostly high tech, and right now I'm the general manager of a large facility for GenTech. We're an electronic components company headquartered in Hong Kong. I love being in the shop environment and seeing things being created, but eventually hope to move into executive roles.”
  • “I write a lot of code. I started with Ernst & Young for a few years but then jumped to one of my clients, Procter & Gamble. I've been working with them mostly in support of the brand development team for one of their packaged-goods divisions. I love the work, but I've begun to think about the big picture, so I'm looking for opportunities to move into management roles."

Why do this? Why spend time crafting an elevator pitch?

Dewett gave three reasons:

  • It leads to stronger connections. Look again at the two examples listed above. In each, there are several jump-off points to dive into deeper conversations with. For example, maybe they’ve had similar experience than you, work in the same industry or can relate to your story.
  • You describe what you are looking for without being pushy. Again, look at the examples above. Both end with the person stating they are looking for management roles. If the person is hiring for a management role, it could lead to a beneficial conversation immediately. That said, the person doesn't directly ask for the role, so it doesn't come across as pushy.
  • It’ll make you stand out. Particularly at networking events, we meet dozens of people and everyone starts to run together. By having a crisp, concise personal elevator pitch, you’ll stand out from the pack.

5 rules for structuring your personal elevator pitch

Want to create your own personal elevator pitch? In his course, Dewett shared his five rules for structuring one. They are:

  • Keep it short! The one rule you can’t break. Keep it under 30 seconds.
  • Be confident, without being arrogant. A fine line. But you want to explain what you do and perhaps even list an accomplishment, without making it completely braggadocios.
  • Be general, instead of specific. For example, tell people you write a lot of code, as opposed to telling them the specific language you code in. If someone can relate – i.e. they write code too – then you can dive in and get more specific.
  • Be distinctive, not generic. Everyone has their own unique story. Try to isolate what makes your unique – again, within 30 seconds – so the person gets an understanding of what makes you, you.
  • End with what you are looking for. The last line of the pitch should be what you are looking for. For example, perhaps it's just to learn about the industry, or maybe you are looking for a new job opportunity. This is a good way to let someone know what you are looking for, without being pushy.

The takeaway

This really comes down to being prepared. Most of us hate networking because we never practice it. By spending some time preparing your personal elevator pitch, you’ll be more prepared the next time you meet someone.

So, spend all of 20 minutes perfecting your personal elevator pitch and update it every year or so. Doing so will benefit you the rest of your life, as it’ll lead to better conversations and more meaningful connections.

Want to learn more? Watch Dewett’s full course, Giving Your Elevator Pitch. Other LinkedIn Learning courses by Dewett include: