How to Master a Successful Elevator Pitch
This is a copy of an article written some time ago by Christina Holzhauser, Tips for Assistants, the content of which is still relevant today and pertinent to anyone looking for a job and/or selling a project or service and bears repeating from time to time. I hope you find it helpful.
When thinking of elevator pitches, do you just think of someone selling his or her product or service? It actually is so much more.
The neat thing about elevator pitches is that they can be crafted to cover a variety of settings, enable you to enhance your image (or another subject matter you are pitching) and help you to seize non-obvious opportunities.
It is important to start off by defining exactly what an elevator pitch is. One great definition I came across is that it is "an overview of a product, service, project, person, or other thing … designed to get a conversation started" (source: ElevatorPitchEssentials.com). A continuation of this definition is that the overview is “so compelling that the person you’re with wants to hear more even after the [hypothetical] elevator ride is over” (source: Seth Godin).
Now that you have an overview of what an elevator pitch is, you might be wondering about examples of some of the settings that an elevator pitch can be used for. Here are some instances:
As a job seeker, you can show the unique value you bring to a profession or specific role. (This specifically helps when answering the following common interview question: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?)
As an employee, you can accurately describe what the company you work for does, the products they sell and more.
As an assistant, you can describe exactly what the person you support does (which can actually help to strengthen their image).
As a member of the administrative profession, you can describe the complexity of what it entails to be an EA, PA, VA, etc. and help to uplift general views of our field.
As you can see, there are many uses of an elevator pitch, especially for assistants. Crafting the perfect one is an investment of time, but very much worthwhile as you will be painting yourself (or another area you are depicting) in the best light possible. Instead of rambling and fumbling over words, you will communicate in a more organized manner, which will increase the chances of the listener being more interested in learning more.
Being well-prepared also helps to set yourself up to capitalize on opportunities, which often times pop up unexpectedly. Have you ever been at a social engagement and met someone who knows of a fantastic new job opportunity? Or ran into someone that you do not know well but you were hoping to get to know better because they work at a company you have been dying to work at? If you have an effective elevator pitch handy, you can utilize that to foster a relationship with the person so they will think to connect you to the right people to help you land your dream role, for example.
Although there are many other important reasons to have a pitch prepared, the last one I want to point out is using it as an opportunity to lift up the general perceptions of assistant careers as a whole. I have heard several people in our field over the years downplay what they do and say, "I'm just an assistant." Practicing your elevator pitch can help to make others understand the complexity of what being an assistant entails. There are so many stereotypes we are still fighting to overcome and portraying what you do in the best light possible will help to shatter those.
How to craft an elevator pitch
There are several key aspects to keep in mind when preparing an elevator pitch:
Know your goal:
As I mentioned above, there are many uses of an elevator pitch so it helps to first determine exactly which one you are crafting yours towards. For example, an elevator pitch designed to help you land a specific job opening will be drastically different from one that is geared towards clearly describing an exciting new product the company you work for just rolled out.
Determine unique value:
What are the most differentiating aspects about you (or other subject you are discussing)? Think about the top skills, general benefits and key aspects that stand out the most. Be sure to consider about which ones will resonate the most with the specific person you are conversing with; you don’t want to add in unnecessary fluff.
Create a few variations:
As discussed in the above point, it is important to tailor your pitch to your specific audience. If you have a few different audiences that you might be conversing with, take the time to tweak the original version so it best matches those other situations. Tailoring is especially necessary when it comes to the jargon used. You don’t want to distract the listener with confusing acronyms that are not used in their field.
Include a soft ask:
At the end of the day, the reason for your elevator pitch is to fulfill a need. The best way to go about this is not to directly ask for something, but to make your need known in a softer manner. Here’s an example of the difference:
"Can you get me a job?"
"I’m hoping to find an opportunity as an executive assistant in the field of digital marketing."
A direct ask is more deterring than indirectly making an aspiration known. Think about how you would feel if someone used example #1 vs. example #2.
Keep it succinct:
I’ve read different lengths of time your pitch should aim at being, but the general consensus seems to be around the 20-30 second range. The goal is to get the listener fascinated enough to want to learn more, so remember that you do not need to include every detail; additional details can be discussed once the conversation continues.
Practice and get feedback:
Take the time to get comfortable with your elevator pitch. Read it out loud by yourself and then practice in front of friend or colleague. The goal is to get to the point where it flows easily and feels natural.
Also, be sure to get feedback and make any necessary improvements. The last thing you want is to come off in a way that is unintended or inauthentic, so making little tweaks can make a big impact.
A well-crafted elevator pitch is a great communication tool that will help you to clearly and concisely articulate your message. It is an investment of time that can enhance many different areas of your life and a skill worth practicing. Good luck in using your pitch to seize those hidden opportunities!
Christina Holzhauser, Owner, Editor, Tips for Assistants | June 2017