Pitch Perfect: Here’s How to Create a Memorable Elevator Pitch

2 women stepping into an elevator
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Quick! You’ve just stepped into line at the coffee shop behind someone you recognize to be the CEO of the company you spend your days dreaming of working for.

She asks you what you do, and how you do it — and you realize that this is your chance. The line is moving surprisingly fast for a Monday morning and you now have about 45 seconds to give her a succinct but impressive spiel about what you do, how you do it and how you might even be able to do it for her.

What do you say?

Unfortunately, because you don’t have anything prepared, you verbal-vomit all over her shoes. A barista calls out her order, so she grabs the latte, shoots you a weird look and ducks out the door — leaving you sputtering and frustrated because that was not the impression you wanted to make.

You know what would have saved you in that moment? Having an elevator pitch.

Whether it’s during a chance encounter at the coffee shop, a formal business meeting or a literal elevator ride, delivering a perfectly crafted elevator pitch serves to set you apart from the competition, both when you’re hoping to land a job and when you’re trying to snag a client.

If you don’t have one prepared, you run the risk of missing out on an awesome opportunity to build your network and promote yourself..

But from here on out, you’ll never have to fear that awkward coffee line situation again, because it’s time to learn how to create your very own elevator pitch.

Rules for Crafting a Strong Elevator Pitch

When crafting your perfect elevator pitch, there are a few rules you should keep in mind.

Keep It Between 30 and 60 seconds

Keep your elevator pitch 30 to 60 seconds.

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Any shorter and you won’t convey enough information. Any longer and you run the risk of bogging down your audience, losing their attention or getting interrupted. Aim for a written paragraph of about 150 to 250 words and an unrushed speaking time between 30 and 60 seconds.

Make It Easy to Understand

Choose clear, concise language and keep it jargon-free. You don’t want your listener to get lost in heavy wording, and a lot of people find industry jargon grating (even if it’s their own industry).

Make an Impression

While your pitch should be simple and free of fancy language, it should also be powerful and illustrative. You’re trying to hook your audience in without alienating them, so make sure your passion for your work shines through.

Keep It Listener-Focused

There’s a delicate balance here: While you do want to highlight your skills and abilities, you also want your listener to be aware of how this information could be useful for them. Don’t just say “I write marketing copy.” Say something like, “I write marketing copy to promote products and services similar to the ones you offer.”

How to Write an Elevator Pitch That Works

Now that you know the basics, follow these steps to construct an elevator pitch that stands out and delivers the right information the right way.

Keep in mind that you won’t get it perfect the first time — in fact, you should write a couple of versions, pull out your red pen, mercilessly slash, revise, condense, rewrite and then revise again.

1. Know Your Audience and Determine Your Goal

Know your audience in your elevator pitch.

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Before you start, decide who your audience is and determine what you want them to take away from your conversation.

Are you speaking to a potential client who needs to know what you can do for them? Or will you be networking with a potential employer who needs to know if you’d be a good fit at their company?

Decide on your audience and purpose, and then keep this in mind as you write your pitch. You might even write a few different versions so that you can whip out the right one at the right time — just think about your audience as you follow these steps.

2. State Who You Are and What You Do

Start with a sentence about who you are, what you do and where you currently do it. This doesn’t have to be anything over-the-top fancy — just state the facts. You’ll build from here.

3. Explain What You Do Best

In two or three sentences, explain what you do in more detail — and how you do it better than anyone else. What makes you unique in your field? What can you do for this person that no one else can do? Which top achievements are you most proud of?

Brag on yourself a little, but be sure to stick to the achievements that will service your listener — don’t brag just to brag.

4. Tell Them What You Hope to Gain

Tell them what you hope to gain in your elevator speech.

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Here’s where your elevator pitch really needs to be specifically tailored and targeted. At the end of the 60 seconds, your listener should know exactly what it is you hope to gain from this conversation. Are you looking for a new job opportunity? Are you looking to gain clients? Are you looking to expand your network?

While you don’t want to be so direct that you make the listener uncomfortable by begging, “Please, please give me a job,” you also don’t want them to walk away from the conversation wondering, “What was that all about?” Dancing around the point will only leave your listener frustrated, so be direct.

5. Include a “Next Steps” Line

End your pitch with an action plan. Let them know what you want to happen next.  Whether you want to schedule a meeting over coffee, want to send a resume over or simply want to exchange business cards and keep in touch, be sure to make your intentions clear and let them know what they can expect from you.

6. Turn It Around

If you have the time during your brief encounter, be sure to ask them about what they do, too, to make the conversation feel more like a two-way street and less like a stuffy sales pitch. Plus, hearing their statement may help you further identify any potential needs you can fill.

7. Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice, practice, practice your elevator pitch.

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Once you have a draft you’re satisfied with, stand in front of a mirror (or a friend!) and practice saying it out loud. You want it to sound natural, not like you just spent six hours rehearsing in your bathroom (even though you did).

A confident and friendly voice will signal to your listener that you’re open to continuing the conversation.

Also, remember that your body language often says more in seconds than words can say in hours. Make sure your body language is on par with the version of yourself you’re trying to present — eye contact and a firm handshake are key!

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.