I Walked into an Interview with No Elevator Pitch—Here's What Happened

How to Leverage Your Elevator Pitch in Any Situation
by Ryan Burch
Photos Bloguettes | January 25, 2017
Talking about yourself seems easy enough—but do you know how to effectively sell who you are and what you do?
We hear it all the time…

Always be prepared.

And when applied to your career, that means being ready for tough interviews and meetings, and exuding confidence when selling your personal brand. It means having your pitch—who you are, what you do, and why you do it—readily prepared.

Why You Need a Personal Pitch—And Should Always Have It Ready

When I first quit my job, I was setting up multiple informational interviews a week, and regularly meeting interesting people across various industries. Each time, I would explain that I was “soul searching” and trying to learn as much as I could about potential career paths. Since I was focused on receiving information and advice that they were sure to give, the pressure was off of me and the meetings were always fun, helpful, and laid-back.

But I recently learned (the hard way) that, outside my own network, my go-to “informational interview” approach wasn't up to par.

A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with a very savvy business lady, who happens to be very well connected in Los Angeles. Foolishly, I showed up as I had been doing all along—planning to ask her a lot of questions and imagining we’d have an easy, flowing conversation from the get-go. I was so focused on hearing about her experience, that I hadn’t prepared anything specific to say about myself.

Rookie mistake.

Right away, she asked how I’d found out about her, and wanted to know what I was working on and what I was looking to get out of the meeting. She—rightly—expected me to have a pitch and a purpose.

Gulp.

Since she wasn’t bubbling with enthusiasm from the moment I met her—and why should she be; she knew nothing about me or why I was taking up her time—I felt nervous. After sputtering a (painfully) long explanation of my various projects, I found it difficult to turn the conversation back around to her.
“Always have a pitch prepared,” she said simply.
By the end of the meeting—which was brief…because I rushed to wrap it up—I asked what advice she might have for a young professional like myself.

“Always have a pitch prepared,” she said simply.

It stung a bit to hear because I knew she was serving up some fresh advice. I had become accustomed to people—primarily close friends and family—responding positively to my various projects, and I hadn’t had to explain myself to someone with less of a vested interest.

I immediately went home to work on the “pitch”—call it an elevator pitch or a personal pitch or what you will—that I should have prepared before our meeting. After copious research, I came up with a streamlined system. Though the content changes depending on the meeting and objectives, the following outline helps me craft (and re-craft) my personal pitch—prior to every important meeting.

HOW TO PREPARE YOUR PITCH

Ask Yourself Three Questions:

  • What do I want? (No more than three things)
  • What do they want? (No more than three things)
  • What do they expect—and how can I make my pitch stand out?
Use the answers above to draft a succinct (no more than two-three sentence) pitch about who you are, what you’re working on, and why you’re at the meeting.

Do Research on the Person You’re Meeting

Take notes and consider points of conversation.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice delivering your pitch in the mirror, on video, and/or with your best friend.

* * * 

Whether or not you are a natural at selling yourself (or are good at thinking on the fly), it’s important to always have an up-to-date personal pitch prepared. At some point, it’s likely you’ll find yourself in some kind of social or professional environment that feels awkward and uncomfortable—and having a pitch rehearsed will help you speak clearly and confidently about yourself and the work that you do.

Just remember: your personal pitch is simply you selling yourself, and who knows you better than you?

What do you make sure to include in your own personal pitch?