Everybody Needs an Elevator Pitch


One of the buzzwords prevalent in workplace vocabularies these days is "elevator pitch," meaning a 100 to 200-word marketing precis about your product or idea that you can deliver to someone in the amount of time it will take an elevator to get you both where you're going. It has to be fast, energetic, compelling and perfectly targeted to your audience, or you'll never hear from the chap again.

All of us need to be primed to talk about our most important product -- ourselves -- at a moment's notice. And the "pitch" needs to be carefully scripted to impress somebody with one or more of your skills in a fashion that is straightforward, factual, highly relevant to the conversation at hand and (here's the hard part) informative rather than self-congratulatory in tone.

And why would you want to do this? Because the name of the game now is visibility. The culture of modesty in which many of us were raised is currently a guaranteed ticket to obscurity. The emergence of two job search and promotion-seeking strategies has catapulted visibility to the forefront of career-enhancement tools:

  • The use of search firms, where professionals constantly collect both written and word-of-mouth information about promising people.
  • Referral fees, which companies regularly pay to their employees for spotting talented people and referring them for hire. Fees range from $500 to $5,000.

This is no time to be hiding your light under a basket. Rather, it's a time to sit at your computer, script a power-packed, 200-word statement about yourself, and then practice it into a tape recorder -- as if the person next to you in the elevator were deciding whether to give you a cool $5 million for your idea. You'll probably hate doing it the first time, maybe even the second, but after awhile you'll get used to it. And you'll be glad you did. Don't leave home without having a customized elevator pitch ready for the particular destination you have in mind.

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