If you’ve attended a networking event, conference, or even a job interview, you’re probably a little too familiar with that wide-eyed feeling of panic that takes over when somebody shakes your hand and says, “So, tell me a little about yourself!”
Undoubtedly, you want to summarize yourself in a way that concisely portrays how accomplished, intelligent, and polished you are. And, if at all possible, you probably want to avoid blabbering on about your ability to binge-watch Netflix and demolish a whole box of Poptarts. So, it’s smart to be proactive with a (somewhat) canned response and ready to go—á la your “elevator pitch.”
But, what should you say? Have no fear! These tips will help you craft the perfect, succinct elevator pitch that you’ll be able to use to promote you whenever the opportunity arises.
1. Get Down to the Nitty Gritty
Did you know that recent studies show that the average adult attention span is just a little over eight seconds? If this holds true in social situations, you certainly don’t have a lot of time to capture someone’s interest with your elevator pitch.
What does this mean for you? Well, you need to get to the meat and potatoes of your pitch right off the bat. Don’t lead into your summary with a meek and hesitant, “Oh, gosh, well… that’s a really good question. Umm… well, I…” Not only does this make you appear unsure, but you’ve also wasted precious time you could’ve used to describe your skills and qualifications.
So, don’t be afraid to skip the stumbling intro and jump right into your pitch. Next time someone asks you what you do, dive right into the nitty gritty and say, “I’m a freelance graphic artist that lends her skills to a variety of small businesses looking to improve their visual identity.” This starts your pitch off on the right foot by explicitly explaining what exactly you do, as well as demonstrating that you’re a confident, take charge kind of gal.
2. Emphasize the Value You Offer
Saying what you do is one thing. But, saying how well you do it is completely different.
Sure, explaining the nuts and bolts of what you do on a day-to-day basis is an important and necessary part of your pitch. However, whether you’re a marketing expert, accountant, or pastry chef, you’re probably aware that there are thousands of other people in the world with the exact same profession as you.
So, how do you set yourself apart from the pack? Emphasize not only what you do, but also the value you provide by doing it well. For example, if you work as a retail associate in a bridal boutique, don’t just say, “Oh, I work in retail at a bridal shop.” Instead, say something like, “I’m a sales associate at a local bridal boutique, where I work to help brides find the perfect dress to make them feel beautiful on their wedding day!”
Both options contain the vital information to answer the question. But, the second response showcases the fantastic end result of your work, as well as emphasizes your passion for your career.
3. Mention Any Huge Achievements
Was one of your articles published by a large online outlet? Did you receive an award at a regional sales conference? Was your work featured in an industry publication? Were you recognized as a top young professional in your area?
Your elevator pitch is the perfect opportunity to highlight any major accomplishments you’ve made throughout your career. And, there are plenty of ways to do it without seeming boastful.
Naturally segue from a summary of what you do into briefly mentioning your achievements and accolades. If you’re a calligrapher that specializes in crafting event invitations, you could say something like: “I’m an artist with expertise in calligraphy and hand lettering for various invitations. In fact, I was recently featured as one of The Knot’s top recommended wedding vendors!”
Mentioning your special achievement in this manner is logical and organic, while still drawing attention to how great you are at what you do.
4. Throw in a Fun Fact
All work and no play can be a little stiff and formal. So, don’t be afraid to include a more lighthearted fun fact about yourself or your skills. After all, you want people to get a good sense of who you are both professionally and personally.
Whether you’re currently training for your first half marathon or you’ve managed to travel to all 50 states, tossing in a trivial tidbit adds a bit of personality to your pitch. Even better? It leaves your conversational partner with an attention grabbing fact they’ll likely remember you by!
While you want your elevator pitch to be professional and mostly business, you also want to avoid coming off as dull and boring. A quick, fun fact is the perfect fix to save you from sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher.
5. Say It with Confidence
Perhaps you won a Nobel Peace Prize or you’ve dedicated your life to tutoring orphans in Uganda. You think that’s pretty impressive, right? But, we all know that it’s not always what you say. It’s how you say it.
Read these two statements and determine which one you think sounds more confident and inspiring. (Spoiler alert: this should be easy.)
“Well, ummm, I actually wrote a bestselling book that ummm, like, provides advice and resources that, uhhhh, teach passionate young women how to like, uhhhh become you know, like successful entrepreneurs.”
“I’m the author of a bestselling book that provides advice and resources that teach passionate young women how to become successful entrepreneurs.”
Read those two statements again—they say almost the exact same thing. However, the first is littered with unnecessary conversational fillers—you know, those pesky “umm”s, “uhh”s and “like”s. Now, take it one step further and imagine the first summary being read in a timid, quiet voice. You likely don’t get an impression that this person is confident and polished.
No matter what you choose to say in your elevator pitch, doing it with confidence is probably the most important ingredient for an outstanding personal summary. You’re amazing at what you do. So, take a deep breath, smile and let that shine through.
Bonus points: Sometimes body language can say more about you than your actual words. When you first meet someone, start with a firm handshake. Maintain self-assured posture by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, and make gestures away from your body rather than towards yourself. Finally, be conscious of not raising the pitch of your voice at the end of sentences, as it can make everything sound like a question rather than a statement. These small cues will perfectly complement your upbeat and confident pitch!
image via The School of Styling