Honing Your Elevator Pitch

Steve Nicholls, Executive Connexions

The ‘Elevator Pitch’

Definition: An elevator pitch, elevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.

The elevator pitch has been around almost as long as, well, elevators, but remains a necessary step in the armoury of any executive looking for their next role or career change (but equally applies to anyone aspiring to a senior level role). As much as you may like or dislike the phrase itself, see it as a succinct few sentences which sum up your experience and value to the listener.

Some homework: I suggest breaking your basic elevator pitch (yes, there are variances on this one) down into three parts (the context here is always is if you’re interacting with a recruiter, head hunter, or someone who can influence recruitment at a company).

  1. Intro to you, discipline, sector
  2. Value you have brought previously (one or two “knock out punches” (i.e. £$%€ (i.e. financial & other tangible performance results) are ideal here)
  3. Aspirational piece – what are you now looking for?

Example of an Executive’s Elevator Pitch:

Written by our experienced executive career coaches & outplacement specialists.

‘I’m an experienced Chief Financial Officer (insert your main one or two job titles), and I have experience in the abc and xyz sectors. I have worked on many key projects including one £$€20M example where I reduced overheads by xyz%.

I’m now looking for a challenging new role (you can be specific here regarding. e.g. P&L, size of company – whatever your own preference or target is) in the xyz sector(s), where I can add value and really make a difference.’

We could of course personally discuss and formulate your own elevator pitch and it might be totally different from the example, but I hope it will give you the broad idea in order to get something written and rehearsed. Recording yourself as you practice your elevator pitch sample can in itself be a lesson in how to vary and use pitch, tone, intonation, inflection and speaking volume.

I would also advise extending this idea to considering an additional elevator pitch around your top three value-adds that you would bring to a role. Many a time a senior level candidate has been caught out at an initial meeting or phone call with a recruiter by not having prepared and thought through their various personal branding statements.

For example, imagine you’ve been invited in for a coffee and a chat with a sector specialist senior level recruiter. You sit down, having just placed your cup of tea/coffee on the table after the first sip, and they say to you, “So Steve, thanks for coming in. What are your three key areas of value that you would bring to a new role?” Wow! Were you prepared for that question? I hope so, as this scenario can happen more often than you might think. To put the whole elevator pitch sample piece in context, you may not get to let loose your entire elevator pitch examples in one go. Often during an interview or recruiter meeting it will be part of a more natural dialogue. The emphasis I always place is around practicing (aloud) the entire piece, so that when called on to offer your skills list, elevator pitch, etc., you have everything in place and can draw on facts and figures and value-adds as you need to.

What I’m advocating of course here is to be fully prepared and on top of your game well in advance. So taking that example I would suggest another piece of homework;

Write your three keys selling points (differentiators or value-adds), around 30 seconds each in duration, practice and polish them, and be ready for this type of question. This piece of work will be one of your two core elevator pitches, along with the more general ‘intro style’ elevator pitch example.

Don’t wait until you’re asked a challenging question to do your prep., as it’s too late at that point. Be well prepared, always, and do just a bit more than the next candidate. It will pay off.

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