Getting the Perfect Tone for Your 30 Second Pitch

the decider 5.jpg
You’re in an elevator. Serendipity! You find yourself riding to the next floor with the head of the company you’ve identified as your first choice for employment. Do you stand there mute, or do you introduce yourself and give your 30 second “elevator speech”? It probably depends on whether or not you’re prepared.

The term elevator speech refers to any short persuasive speech that can be delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator to the next floor. This week, a student writes seeking advice on her elevator speech.

I was wondering if you have any advice about approaching recruiters at the job fair. I’m a sophomore and want to attend for the first time. I would like to put together my “30 second speech” but don’t really know what direction to take.

She’s smart because she realizes an “elevator speech” is a necessity. Many job seekers focus on their written communications and forget about the oral communications that may be necessary in the job search process. They’re unable to give a short speech that sells what they have to offer, and their oral pitch sends their listeners reaching for their earplugs.  How can you get the perfect pitch for your elevator speech?

CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE. This is essential to any effective message. If your short speech is not relevant to your specific audience, it’s not likely to generate interest in bringing you in for an interview. In other words, the first step is to consider the key components from your listener’s perspective. This means doing your homework. Know as much as you can about the companies in your field by networking, reading online and in databases such as Hoover’s Online, Jobstar, Occupational Outlook Handbook, and more. You can find these through your library. For your top picks, understand why makes the company unique and why you are a good match.

KNOW YOURSELF. Of course, knowing why you’re a good match means knowing who you are. What makes you unique? What are you able to do? How can you benefit your audience? Peggy Klaus is a Fortune 500 Communication Coach and author of Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It. It’s an easy, interesting read and offers this “Take-12 Questionnaire” to help readers generate the raw material of their elevator speeches. It can be found online, and is also printed here.

BRAG! Take-12 Self-Evaluation Questionnaire ©

Don’t feel that you have to answer these in order. You can start anywhere and skip around. As you move through the questions, you’ll likely think of things you might have overlooked when answering earlier ones. In fact, you’ll probably want to go over your responses once more after you have completed the evaluation. Remember, the more time you put into this exercise, the more specific details you provide, the easier it will be to create brag bites and bragologues that will be crystal clear and interesting to those who don’t already know you well.
1.    What would you and others say are five of your personality pluses?
2.    What are the ten most interesting things you have done or that have happened to you?
3.    What do you do for a living and how did you end up doing it?
4.    What do you like/love about your current job/career?
5.    How does your job/career use your skills and talents, and what projects are you working on right now that best showcase them?
6.    What career successes are you most proud of having accomplished (from current position and past jobs)?
7.    What new skills have you learned in the last year?
8.    What obstacles have you overcome to get where you are today, both professionally and personally, and what essential lessons have you learned from some of your mistakes?
9.    What training/education have you completed and what did you gain from those experiences?
10.    What professional organizations are you associated with and in what ways member, board, treasurer, or the like?
11.    How do you spend your time outside of work, including hobbies, interests, sports, family, and volunteer activities?
12.    In what ways are you making a difference in people’s lives?

Source: From Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It
(Warner, 2003) by Peggy Klaus

Basically, as you respond to these questions, you’re generating your key points. Once you have answered the questions, underline what you want to highlight. Focus on the contributions you can make to the company.

WRITE YOUR SPEECH. Take the underlined parts and write a sentence or two to develop them. Keep it brief. If you’re going to keep the entire speech under 30 seconds, you need only about 90 words. Connect the sentences by grouping similar ideas. Add logical transitions. Revise and edit. Cut all unnecessary words, and avoid repetition. Read your speech out loud slowly. If you trip over a sentence, rewrite it until it flows naturally.

PRACTICE YOUR SPEECH. Now practice the speech until it becomes rote. Stand in front of a mirror and rehearse it. Deliver it with a pleasant, controlled, authentic voice and time it. If it’s too long, go back and reorganize and cut. Try it out on your friends and family. Ask for feedback. Listen to their suggestions, but remember this is your speech, and in the immortal words of George W. Bush, you are “the decider.”

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