Be Prepared with Your Elevator Speech
“Tell me about yourself.” Does that request fill you with unease? If so, it’s time to develop your “elevator speech” so you can be prepared in any situation to provide a concise statement of who you are as a professional and where you’re headed, as well as engage in fruitful conversation.
What’s an elevator speech?
An elevator speech is sometime referred to as a positioning statement, a marketing speech, or a 30-second commercial. It’s a brief summary of your background and experience that should last about as long as a brief elevator ride (about 30-60 seconds), and it’s an excellent way to share your skills and expertise with people who don’t know you. Your elevator speech allows the listener to become quickly aware of specific, unique, and impressive attributes you can bring to their organization and leaves them wanting to learn more about you!
How many elevator speeches do I need? Will one do the trick?
It’s important to have more than one elevator speech in order to maximize its effectiveness. What you say will vary according to your stage of professional development and the purpose of your conversation. Are you looking for a job, expanding your professional network, or searching for ways to improve your organization?
The First Part of Your Speech
The first part of each of your elevator speeches can be relatively similar regardless of its purpose and should contain information about your professional background:
- Who you are professionally (e.g., quality assurance manager, immigration advocate, radio producer)
- Your level (e.g., entry-, mid-, senior-level)
- Your approximate number of years of experience
- The industries you’ve served
- Industries and functions in which you have expertise
- Your specific strengths (e.g., problem solving, team building, leadership)
The box below contains a general template you can use to perfect the first part of your elevator speech. The italicized content found in the examples below the template is guided to some extent by the template and provides a description of the person’s basic professional background information based on your stage of professional development. This information is then followed with content that someone might use when looking for a job, networking, or for organizational improvement purposes.
I am a (your level and your professional “tag” or identifier) ___________ with ____ years’ experience in (indicate industries or functions) __________.
I have specific expertise in (roles or functions, detailed skills, etc.) _____________.
My strengths include _____________.
Hello. My name is Maria Riutort. I recently graduated from La Salle University where I earned a degree in communications with a minor in human services. As a result of my passion for immigrant populations, I’ve been working for the past two years as an entry-level immigration advisor and interpreter and am volunteering as a peer mentor, child advocate, and English tutor for Spanish speaking immigrants at two non-profit immigration organizations. As a result of these experiences, I’ve developed skills in teaching, advocacy, and using evidence-based family interventions to empower immigrants.
Job Search Focus: I’m seeking a more challenging opportunity that will allow me use my skills to
develop cost-efficient programming that will assist immigrant families to access social services and educational opportunities.
Networking Focus: I’m in the process of meeting people in the tri-state area who have a similar passion for empowering immigrant populations.
Organizational Improvement Focus: I’m interested in talking with more advanced professionals in this field to get ideas to improve my skillset and by extension to enhance the quality of the services presently being delivered at my present place of employment.
Hi, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Fred de Luca. I’m an accomplished project manager with 10 years of experience administering NIH-funded clinical trials that focus on using a range of psychosocial treatments with adults who have drug and alcohol use disorders. My strengths include grant management, development and oversight on projects budgeted at ~$2.5K, and employee on-boarding. I’m known for my ability to anticipate and pro-actively address project-related barriers and complete projects on time and under budget.
Job Search Focus: I’m looking for a new professional challenge where I can capitalize on my skill set and experience to streamline an organization’s existing structure and further their reputation and success.
Networking Focus: I’m presently reaching out to other project coordinators employed on NIH grants who love their jobs as much as I do to learn how they are keeping their skills and knowledge up-to-date.
Organizational Improvement Focus: I’m in the process of meeting with project managers employed at local non-profit addictions organizations to exchange ideas about our most effective project improvement strategies, as well as to discuss barriers we’re encountering as a result of recent changes in state and federal legislation pertaining to substance abuse treatment.
Hello. My name is Janice Knudsen. I’m a senior marketing professional with more than 20 years of increasing responsibility in the field of prosthetic device development. My strengths include brand development, understanding buyers’ personas, and launching important new products into the market and improving their time-to-profitability. In my sales career, I have exceeded my targeted marketing outcomes in 85% of those years and am most proud of the sales relationships I have developed with nationally recognized children’s hospitals and Veterans Affairs.
Job Search Focus: I’m in search of my encore position in which I can combine my extensive sales experience with a cause I feel passionate about: developing and providing affordable prosthetics for veterans or people of limited means. As a Veteran who’s seen first-hand the physical and emotional effect losing a limb can have on Vets and their families, I’ll rest easier at the end of my life knowing that I’ve used my marketing skills to improve the lives of my fellow compatriots who have given so much for our country.
Networking Focus: Right now I’m focusing on becoming more familiar with people and organizations who are combining their marketing expertise with their passion for making our world more accessible to people with physical disabilities.
Organizational Improvement Focus: I have a longstanding interest in finding out what people of varying ability levels need to improve their access to the world that so many of us able bodied people take for granted and then using this information to improve the products and services that my company offers.
What are some basic tips that can make my elevator speech effective?
Engage your audience.
Of course, you want to infuse language throughout your elevator speech that piques the interest of your audience. One additional way to engage them is to add a simple prompt to your elevator speech, such as:
Job Search Focus: “Tell me more about your organization and the types of people you hire for (occupation of interest) positions.”
Networking Focus: “I’d love to hear about you and how you made your way to your present
Organizational Improvement Focus: “Tell me about your passion for (the organization’s niche) and, to date, your greatest contribution to its success.”
Remember to keep it short.
Yes, you have a lot that you want to tell your audience about you and how fabulous you are. However, your goal is not to overwhelm them with details but instead to intrigue them in a way that makes them want to learn more about you. You know that you’re failing to do this if you see their eyes glaze over as they reach for that imaginary “close door” button on the elevator.
Know your end game and have a take away.
Is your goal to land a job with a specific company or organization, to make connections with others in your field, to improve the fiscal health of your present employer, or to land a meeting to explain your end game or mission in greater detail? As mentioned above, the elevator speech you deliver should be geared toward your goal. Depending on the setting, your audience may not be able to ask you questions but will want to initiate some sort of contact with you later on. Be sure to hand out your business card or other self-marketing materials, such as a resume, to make it easy for them to contact you.
Being prepared with elements of your elevator speech, at every stage of your career, will ensure you are able to respond confidently and clearly when asked, “Tell me about yourself”. If you don’t know how you would reply to that question, it’s time to develop your elevator speech.
Do you need assistance in creating your elevator speech, or any other career-related matter? Contact Debra Franke, Assistant Director of Alumni Career Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-991-3582.
Lois Benishek is a licensed psychologist in private practice who provides career and graduate school coaching. She formerly interned with La Salle University’s Alumni Relations office. If she’s not at home nurturing her aging cat and her ’99 Toyota Camry or gardening, she’s probably out and about networking! She can be reached at email@example.com or on LinkedIn.