6 mistakes you are making in your elevator pitch

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Regardless of industry, how you position yourself as a professional can make or break your career. From the job interviewing process to client relationships, an elevator pitch isn’t reserved for sales. Rather, this short, concise and powerful messaging allows current and potential influencers know exactly who you are, what you can offer — and why they should choose you for the opportunity. Though many modern career-forward people discount this practice, crafting an effective elevator pitch is instrumental to success. If you want to reap the most reward from this masterpiece, avoid these mistakes, according to experts.

So, what is an elevator pitch?

Think about the time it takes to go from ground to a high floor at an office building. Probably less than five minutes, right? When you have a killer elevator pitch, this is all the time it should take to win over your audience. As the president of DRV Staffing Daniel Vahab shares, that’s exactly the goal when you’re creating your presentation. “An elevator pitch is a short and concise statement meant to quickly persuade someone of something, such as an idea, product or service, or even a person trying to sell themselves to potential hiring managers, employers,” he continues. “The hope is that you are able to make a compelling enough case to persuade someone to believe something.” 

In practice, this may look like a speech introducing yourself. It could involve a slide deck or a PDF handout. The situations may change but overall, your approach should remain branded to you and the listener. 

Mistake #1: Not including metrics or KPIs

When you’re doing your best to compete for a job, it’s important to remember many applicants are likely being considered. And they all come with various strengths and weaknesses, making it your duty to ensure you stand out from the crowd. The same is true when you’re landing a client. Vahab recommends using data-points that coincide with case studies and examples of success to differentiate yourself or your company. “Rather than simply saying that you’d make a great addition to the marketing team, talk about how you increased positive sentiment of the brand by 20 percent, helped win $50 million in RFPs, raised client retention by 70 percent, offered a 300 percent ROI off seven marketing events, and so on,” he explains. 

Perhaps he puts it best when he says words are powerful, but numbers back them up.

Mistake #2: Forgetting to state basic info

In the journey to create a compelling elevator pitch, some professionals get lost in creative language, super-cool examples and other points, that they forget the basics of an elevator pitch. You know: who you are and why you’re here! As executive career coach Elizabeth Pearson explains, the purpose of an elevator pitch is to provide a sneak peek into what makes you tick and unique, not about your hobbies, your children, your pets and other unnecessary noise. “When the pitch is built to clearly communicate the benefits to the audience, it conveys confidence, self-awareness, experience, and professionalism,” she explains.” This is the opportunity to provide a brief summary of their background. It should include only the most impressive accomplishments and key areas of strength.”

When you’re editing down your pitch, Pearson suggest only including information that will elicit a ‘wow’ response, while also answering the basic ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’ and ‘how.’ “There is zero room for fluff or anything that doesn’t tell the audience what sets themselves, or their product, apart from everyone else. Once they’ve got their power bullets down, the next step is to organize them in a way that is in flow with their pitch,” she adds.

Mistake #3: Talking only about your current situation rather than your professional identity

If you were at a dinner party tomorrow and someone asked you ‘What do you do?’, what would your response be? According to certified career coach Emeline Roissetter, most professionals discuss their current state of employment. Though it makes sense, it’s a mistake, since what you do isn’t limited to the point you’re in your career right now, but the type of executive you hope to be. “The problem is that the moment you say that, you have lost the interest of the person in front of you,” she continues. “Let’s be clear, your current situation is not who you are, you are not defined by it! Focus on who you are as a professional and say something like ‘I am a digital transformation expert with over 15 years of experience in the Telecom industry.’” 

Mistake #4: You don’t focus on the client

Or the hiring manager. Or whoever your current subject might be. Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D., an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert says sometimes, professionals are so invested in saying the whole speech that they forget to engage with whoever is right in front of them. Though it takes a bit of a leap of faith, you should be prepared to pivot if your presentation is inciting yawns instead of wide-eyed amusement. “Remember to look the other person in the eye while speaking. If the person seems disengaged, stop the pitch and ask a question to encourage dialogue,” she explains. “You may need to rephrase something or take a different angle to handle the potential client’s questions or concerns. The potential client has probably heard dozens of pitches, so a personable approach is incredibly important.”

Mistake #5: Your pitch is too long

Remember: it doesn’t take that long to ride an elevator. And though you would love to one day perform at Ted Talk, today is not that day. Career coach and resume writer Cheryl Simpson suggests creating various versions at different lengths, so you can gauge your audience’s attention span. “If you’re in a networking meeting or event, a longer one-to-two-minute pitch is perfect. If you’re talking to someone on a break at a conference, a shorter pitch may work out better,” she explains. “Having options that have been timed will help you to get across your most important points while also respecting the time of the person you’re networking within the moment. After all, an elevator pitch is meant to be a conversation starter, not a conversation stopper.”

Mistake #6: Not having enough passion and speaking eloquently.

Even if you slaved over your presentation for hours, practiced it in front of a mirror and overall, feel confident, if you show up exhausted and anxious, your crowd will lose interest, fast. Vahab explains decision-makers want to feel — in their gut — that you really believe you have the skills and experience required to perform at a high standard for the job or the opportunity. So when you casually add in an ‘Um’ or ‘Ah’ or pause for long periods? They begin to doubt you. He suggests watching your posture, finding a comfortable pace for your pitch, and maintaining eye contact. This showcases your self-esteem — and hopefully, lands the deal.