A lot of us started working on computers because, well, we find them easier than people. The catch-22 is that you can’t work with computers and not work with people–an annoying reality, but a reality all the same. Between networking, job searches, and pitching your latest app idea, there is going to come a time when you have to sell yourself and your skills, and that’s when creating your personal elevator pitch will come in clutch.
Being able to quickly, succinctly, and confidently talk about yourself is a skill we can all use a little practice on, so let’s dive into how to get comfortable with making yourself the star of the (30-second long) show.
What is an elevator pitch?
An elevator pitch is named as such because it should be completed in the amount of time it takes to ride in an elevator for a single floor, about 30 seconds. In this short window, you should be able to clearly communicate who you are, what your most impressive skills are, and how your skills or service can benefit the person on the other end of the conversation. It’s your catch-all answer to the oh-so-ubiquitous question: “So, what do you do?”
A well-crafted elevator pitch isn’t just good for bar banter with the stranger sitting next to you at happy hour. It’s also necessary for networking events, job interviews, and sales pitches. Let’s take a look at what to include and how to tailor it to each of these situations.
What to include in an elevator pitch
This is not the time to give someone a rundown of your entire life and career. If anything, the more general you are with the information you share, the more you’re encouraging the person on the other side of the conversation to ask questions. You want to:
- Introduce yourself and briefly summarize what you do
- Grab their attention with something interesting
- Leave the door open for questions
Creating your personal elevator pitch is not much more complicated than that. Outline a few things you have worked on that you think are really interesting and worth talking about, highlighting how your solution is unique. You don’t need to go deep into the how and why, just touch on the important pieces of information that will lead to a more meaningful conversation.
How to tailor your elevator pitch
Attending a networking event is usually the most obvious use of your elevator pitch, but it’s not the only one, and each situation calls for a different angle. When you’re at a networking event, highlight the current work you’re doing and how it helps target a particular issue that the event may be centered around, like cloud services or eCommerce solutions.
When you’re at a job interview and inevitably get the “why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself,” question, keep it simple. Give a brief overview of your career up to this point, and talk about a solution you’re particularly proud of, using the PAR method (Problem–Action–Result). This shows that you’re not just talking about yourself, but about your important accomplishments.
If you’ve got a product or idea to sell, your elevator pitch should explain what your company does and how it addresses a problem with a unique solution, and you should have some factual information to back up your pitch. You want to show what kind of value you’re bringing to the table and why this person needs your solution more than your competitor’s.
What to avoid
There is a very human tendency to start babbling on and on when you’re either nervous or talking about yourself. It’s safe to say that an elevator pitch would heighten that tendency. Do everything you can to avoid it! It’s called an elevator pitch because it should be short and succinct. Don’t let your shine get dimmed because the great things you’re accomplishing got drowned out in a sea of languages you know.
To that end, you should also avoid too many specifics. If you give away all the information right at the beginning of a conversation, where is the incentive to learn more about you or your company? Telling someone you’re a backend developer is enough–you don’t need to specify that you know C#, Java, Python, and dabble in Golang.
The last thing to avoid in your elevator pitch is the use of confusing jargon and abbreviations. Ideally, the new happy hour friend you make should be able to understand what it is you do just as well as the senior dev manager. Keep it simple; people will ask follow-up questions and get clarification on the pieces they need.
The exercise of creating your personal elevator pitch is not just important, but necessary, in the tech world. Start big, and write out every cool thing you’ve ever done. Then, shave things off until you have the best of the best in writing. Practice it over and over and over again until the words flow out of your mouth like a river of awesomeness. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll be when it comes time to continue the discussion beyond the bounds of the proverbial elevator doors. And that’s when good things start coming your way.