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Your Guide to the Perfect Elevator Speech

Don’t let the timeframe fool you; despite it only spanning 30-60 seconds, the elevator pitch is not an easy speech to perfect. In fact, it’s precisely its brevity that makes this helpful networking tool so difficult. How can you effectively sum up your career history, achievements, and goals in a mere minute or less—the time it takes to ride an elevator to your destination? Much like writing a professional bio for a web site, crafting an effective elevator pitch requires advanced planning and a few revisions before it’s ready to go live.

The first order of business is to pick a goal. Are you crafting your elevator speech for a career fair? To promote your new startup? To notify your network of your new job search? Your pitch should be focused, and in order to be so, it needs a target to focus on. What you include in your speech will change with its goal, so make sure you’re clear about what it is you’re after from the get-go.

Once you’ve done that, you can identify what, and who, you have to address. The content of your speech, as well as the tone you use, depends entirely on who you will be speaking to. Should you be pitching an idea or your competencies for a position to someone who already knows you, there would be no need to include things they already know, which will give you more room for facts and achievements that might otherwise take the backburner. But if you’re speaking with someone who is only meeting you for the first time, you may need to give certain details priority—such as your education and work history.

Among the details that should be present in any elevator speech are your best achievements. Write down your achievements, and pick the best one or two. Your elevator pitch should sound like a brief but compelling introduction to you as a professional, not a laundry list. What are the achievements you’re most proud of? Which are the ones most relevant to your goal? Writing these down will give you an objective view of which would be the best choice and the opportunity to physically cross out the ones that aren’t.

You should also write your speech down and read it aloud. Writing it out will help you commit the main points to memory, while reading it aloud will ensure that it sounds right to the ear. You can then work to perfect your tone by recording the finished product and listening to it later with fresh ears, or performing the speech for others to see what they think.

Finally, be natural! Even if you spend a considerable amount of time organizing your speech and committing the key points to memory, don’t recite a stiff monologue. Some of the many skills you can show with a strong elevator pitch are your ability to communicate effectively and remain calm in a high-pressure situation. So keep your goal and achievements in mind, remain calm, and talk to the other person as you would any other fellow human being.

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