The 10 commandments of a great elevator pitch

The 10 commandments of a great elevator pitch

There is one thing you should not forget to take with you when going to a networking event. Actually, you should always have it at hand, as you never know who you might meet. So, what is it? The elevator pitch!

What is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is, simply put, a way to successfully introduce yourself in, let’s say, 20 - 40 seconds. Imagine that you are looking for a job or starting a new company and you are stepping into an elevator and the person who can help you and make a difference in your life is standing right there. This is your only chance to grab their attention! What are you going to say to them?

I remember the time when, 8 years ago, I was just starting my coaching business and I was hopping from one networking event to another. Very often, the dialogue would go something like this:

Person A: “So, what is it that you do?”
Me: “I am a coach.”
Person A: “You mean like a sport’s coach?”
Me: “No, I help internationals who struggle with their careers.”
Person A: “ Ahh, I understand. You are like a recruiter who advises them on how to find a job in the Netherlands.”
Me: “Mmm, not exactly, sometimes yes, but more often than not they do not know what kind of career they want, so I help them figure it out first.”
Person A: “Ahh, yes, I see…You advise them on what kind of job they should be doing.”
Me: "No, I coach them, which means I ask them questions, so they can figure it out for themselves."

Let's just say it was a painful process!

What makes a great elevator pitch?

Hundreds of networking events later, I found out what makes a great elevator pitch. I have created this handy list so that you do not have to go through the same painful process I did.

1. Be short and to the point

After all, you only have 20 - 40 seconds! The shorter the message, the higher the chance that the other person will remember you and what you said.

2. Describe who you are and what you do in two sentences

If you have your own company, describe the way you are serving your clients. If you have a corporate job, talk about your biggest achievements. Don't have a job at the moment? Talk about your strengths and the unique qualities you possess.

3. Clearly state what you need from the other person

Are you looking for contacts, a new job, or specific support? Or would you like to arrange a follow-up meeting or call the person you are talking to?

4. Use simple language and avoid jargon

Do not confuse people with words that they will not understand. Unless, of course, you know for sure he or she will understand what you mean.

5. Have a couple of different variations ready

Firstly, you will need different variants of your elevator pitch, depending on who you talk to. Secondly, if you are going to use the same exact pitch during the same networking event, you will bore yourself to death.

6. End with a question 

After all, you want a response or reaction from the other side. The best way to get this is by asking a question.

7. State your intentions upfront

Think about what you want to achieve and make this very clear. Are you in need of a new job, contacts, or do you want to promote your company?

8. Know your audience

It is not always possible to find out who you are going to talk to and what this person does. But, if you are going to a networking event, you can at least study the purpose of the event and, if possible, the guest list beforehand.

9. Practice!

Practice makes perfect, as they say. Listen to yourself speak, out loud. The best way to do this is in front of a mirror or to record yourself on your smartphone. Do you smile? Are you deadly serious? Self-awareness is the key to mastering your performance, even if the performance only takes 20 seconds. Remember, you can never make a first impression a second time.

10. Be authentic. Be yourself.

The delivery of your elevator pitch is as important as the pitch itself. Don’t try to sound like everyone else. Think about what is unique about you and your style and deliver your pitch accordingly. The best way to do this is to think about one word that describes you.

For example: Powerful, inspiring, energetic, calm, cheerful. This way, your pitch will be unforgettable and unique.

Examples of elevator pitches

Here is my own elevator pitch from the last networking event I went to:

“My name is Dorota Klop-Sowinska. I am an international career coach, helping women from all over the world to change their careers, in a way that reflects their values, talents, life mission and purpose. I have recently finished writing my first book on this topic and I am currently looking for contacts in the publishing world and companies who would be willing to sponsor my book. Do you know anyone who could help me?”

Another example:

“Hi, I’m Sophie and I am a social media queen. My company “ABC Get followers NOW!” is helping my clients get thousands of followers on Facebook and Instagram every month. Thanks to this, they consistently increase their sales results. Do you know of any small business owners that would benefit from my services? Feel free to send them my way.”

Or this one:

“Hi, I’m Eva and I am a CFO of a multinational energy company. I am responsible for a team of 200 people and my last project saved the company 100 million euros. I am looking for a new career opportunity in the renewable energy sector. Would you happen to have any connections in this sector?”

So, these were the ten commandments of a great elevator pitch. Are you going to the IamExpat Fair in Amsterdam on Saturday, April 7? Don't forget to prepare your elevator pitch! 

Let’s get to know each other, share your pitch in the comments below!

Dorota Klop-Sowinska


Dorota Klop-Sowinska

Official Member of Forbes Coaches Council. I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am the author of the book Career Jump! How to Successfully Change Your Professional Path...

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