Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Social networking and job search 19 – structuring an effective elevator pitch

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on November 13, 2009

I have cited elevator pitches several times now in this series but I have not really gone into what constitutes a good elevator pitch. I want to address that here, starting with three essential points. A good elevator pitch is:

• Brief and to the point.
• Focused, and with select details that will help you present yourself in that brief format.
• Structured and organized – never simply delivered ad hoc and without forethought.

Elevator pitches are sometimes called two minute pitches, but that length can induce coma if you are simply talking and talking. For most purposes, a 30 second initial pitch makes more sense and here, the idea is to start a conversation – not just make a one-sided statement. The goal of an elevator pitch is to develop a conversation that includes your sharing information about who you are, what you do, what you are looking to do next and why you would be great at it and a real asset for whomever hires you.

This means focusing on the most important points and just them. This means being pretty specific if you are looking for leads as the more specific you are, the more likely the person you are talking with will make a connection and offer you a good lead. This means watching body language and getting your contact to talk too, and especially if they begin to look the least bit distracted. People get and stay more involved when they are more actively participating and that is important here.

So far I have addressed the first two points of brevity and focus and that brings this posting to the issue of structure. A good elevator pitch has structure.

• That means you plan for delivering it so that your pitch connects with and supports your ongoing search campaign.
• That does not mean memorizing a specific script, but instead means presenting a brief set of select points and with a natural voice.
• It means planning out what the key details and issues are that you want to share in your pitch.
• In practice that generally means answering a set of specific questions – not necessarily asking them but giving your answers to them.

The basic list of questions and issues you focus on will depend on several factors but whatever you chose you want to have the basic content of your answers ready so you can briefly, succinctly share them.

New York City Chapter TENG (Technology Executives Networking Group) meetings always include a session where everyone present shares their elevator pitches around the room. For that group the questions are:

1. What do you do? (with one or two brief examples)
2. What are you looking for from the group? (with some specificity to help your listeners bring this into focus so they will know more precisely how they can help you)
3. What do you like to do? (this is added to establish a more personal relationship with your listeners)
4. What is your constraints box? (identifying your geographic and other boundaries that you are primarily searching within)
5. What, in one sentence, would you do next if you could wake up tomorrow morning to have what for you would be the best job in the world?

This pitch structure is networking oriented and geared towards presenting to a group, and not all pitches are set up with a group audience in mind. But virtually every good, effective elevator pitch is networking oriented, and most all of them involve both asking for and offering value.

The last question in the TENG elevator pitch list is called the magic wand question, and it is particularly valuable as the more clearly you can articulate you answer to that and the more often you do so, in your pitch and in your search, the more likely you are to achieve this goal.

Think through what you are trying to accomplish as a next step in your search with your pitch, select your structure questions accordingly and allow for the flexibility to change your pitch, both as your search progresses and as you find unexpected opportunity in specific networking meetings. And work on answering that magic wand question. That is probably the most valuable point offered in this posting.

I will finish this posting with a final point that should come through in every part of your elevator pitch, and throughout your job search in general.

• Always be proactive, positive and forward looking in your presentation.

The worst thing you could do to yourself in your search, in your elevator pitch or in any other aspect of your search is to dwell on the past. This cannot be about how you were mistreated in a former position if you feel that you were. It cannot effectively be about how you should have gotten that promotion, or about how you should have been kept on through a downsizing in a previous job. This should always be about moving forward and about the value you would bring to a new employer as you do so. And even if specifically asked about a more difficult aspect of your past experience on the job, take a positive, forward looking approach to responding to that and move on from there.

The next posting in this series is going to look into negotiating techniques and how they can be applied to a search, starting with your informational interviews and other background research activities. Good negotiating skills are not just for the final compensation negotiating stages of a search.

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  1. […] Tim Platt on November 29, 2009 One of the issues that I raised almost as an aside in my posting Structuring an Elevator Pitch was the concept of our constraints box – the geographic and other limits we impose on our search […]

  2. […] this series will be on behavioral interviews and that will connect into this point. • Have your elevator pitch ready on a […]

  3. […] employer. • Start with the people you are most comfortable with and practice. • Read through Structuring an Effective Elevator Pitch and start working to build yours, and try it out on people you know who would give you candid […]

  4. […] can help you get and maintain your job search focus. Here, I strongly recommend that you review Structuring an Effective Elevator Pitch as that is where you share your highest priority search goals with your contacts, and in a way they […]

  5. […] it would be easy for you to speak with them if they are in either the United States or Europe. (See Structuring and Effective Elevator Pitch.) • Be open to the unexpected. If your contact asks you a clarifying question, or a question that […]

  6. […] already developed mini-library of single topic postings to discuss issues like the elevator pitch (part 1 and part 2) but even there I will discuss these elements in building a Plan B in the context of […]

  7. […] help you refine your search targeting, and to help you refine your marketing materials too – your elevator pitch (and part 2), your resume and cover letter (which I will go into in detail in this series) and […]

  8. […] you to show that is by being prepared and focused. Work on your elevator pitch as a part of that (Part 1 and Part 2). • One key to helping these contacts help you is if you can give them an easily […]

  9. […] but show interest in learning more and of being involved and a part of the team. • And have your elevator pitch and remember if cannot be effective if it is simply a monolog. • Listen – both gatekeepers and […]

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