Going up? Reasons to practice your elevator speech

Apr 15, 2015


Adrian Thompson

Adrian Thompson is a communications intern for the Research and Innovation Network where she is an associate editor for the network's blog. She is currently working towards earning her BA in Journalism and Mass Communications with a concentration in English at the University of Iowa. While attending school, Adrian has been apart of of several student organizations including Ed on Campus, ICONIC Magazine, and Her Campus Iowa, where she is currently the editor-in-chief.

Imagine getting stuck on an elevator for the next 11 floors with the CEO of your company.

Maybe you’re an intern or maybe you’ve been working diligently for him or her for the last eight years. Whatever your position, now is your chance to make a lasting impression on a person who has the power make a change in your future career. You get ready to speak and introduce yourself, but you stop, get nervous and quickly shut your half-opened mouth. You are at a loss of words for what to say to this individual. You, my friend, need to work on your elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch, or elevator speech, is typically a short summary used to quickly define an organization, a product or service, or even an individual and its value. The name elevator simply refers to the idea that the short speech should be able to be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride.

Sara Burden, Senior Associate Director of Employer Engagement at the University of Iowa, says that the average length of an elevator pitch is usually “15-20 seconds.” Ms. Burden teaches workshops on elevator pitches at the University of Iowa for students who participate in the journalism department’s speed networking events.

Ms. Burden says that it is important to set your goal when determining what to say in your elevator pitch. “Do some self-reflection and assess what the situation is,” she says. “What type of event are you going to, what is the purpose of the event, and what do you want to take from that event, are all good questions to ask yourself.”

When it comes to delivering an elevator pitch, you want to give information that will be interesting and memorable, and that could lead to the exchange of business cards or scheduling a meeting. It might help to start writing down everything you would desire a prospective employer to know about your skills – including accomplishments and relatable work experience. Then, take a red pen and cross out everything that isn’t critical to your pitch. You should have just a few key points left on your list at this point that try to answer who you are, what do you do, and what are you looking for. Remember, though, that you want your elevator pitch to be catered towards the person you are speaking to, not towards yourself.

“There is a difference between networking and schmoozing,” says Ms. Burden. “You don’t want to seem like you are trying to benefit yourself.”

After your pitch is crafted, you must “practice, practice, practice.” Ms. Burden recommends to her students to practice in front of a mirror, in a room alone speaking aloud, or with a friend or career advisor. The best way to practice is to attend an actual event where networking is likely to occur. That way, you’ll be fully ready to deliver the perfect elevator pitch next time you run into that CEO.

Now all you need is the elevator.

Going up?