Five ways to impress the boss in five minutes

By far the most nerve-wracking prospect in any ambitious professional’s career is this: you run into the boss, or someone who can give you an important opportunity, and you only have a few minutes to make an impression.

Where even do you start?

Well, you start here. These tips will give you the confidence you need to make a good impression fast.

Get to the point

As fascinating as your experience may be, no one wants to hear your resume verbally when they talk to you. The more words you use, the more forgettable they are. Make sure your comments are short and memorable. An American Express OPEN Forum article about elevator pitches to investors elaborates on why.

“Most people have short attention spans. Busy investors have even shorter ones. That means you must communicate your pitch in less than 60 seconds. Sure, your pitch has to do a lot in that time span, but if you can‘t write down the basic idea around your company on the back of a business card, then you don’t truly understand what you do… And if you don’t understand it, how do you expect other people to understand it?” the article says.

Know what you’re best at

Imagine you were in a store buying a product, and nowhere on the label does it say what the product does. Would you buy it?

Of course not. This is the same problem that many jobseekers and entrepreneurs face: unless people know what you do best, they have no idea why they should be talking to you as opposed to someone else.

An Accenture blog post touches on this.

“What’s your specialty? That’s the question you need to ask yourself, and answer for your prospective employer. An effective elevator pitch should communicate your experience or expertise, what motivates you or makes you passionate about your field, and what kind of work you’re looking for. The trick here is to give just enough information to get the person you’re speaking to curious enough to ask more detailed questions. Conversations build relationships that are remembered. Speeches do not,” the post says.

How can you put this into effect? Easy. Instead of saying you’re a finance manager, focus on the part of your job you do best: that you specialize in helping companies in crisis strengthen their financials. Or, if you’re a sales professional, say that you’re a leader in sales who closes the most deals and maintains strong relationships for years. Tell people why you stand out, and they’ll remember it.

Tell them how your expertise can help them

Nancy Collamer writes about how you should “tailor the pitch to them, not you” in a Forbes article.

“It’s important to remember that the people listening to your speech will have their antennas tuned to WIFM (What’s in It for Me?) So be sure to focus your message on their needs.

For example, this introduction is an effective one: ‘I am a human resources professional with 10 years experience working for consumer products companies.’ The pitch would be more powerful if you said, ‘I am a human resources professional with a strong track record in helping to identify and recruit top-level talent into management.’

Using benefit-focused terminology will help convince an interviewer that you have the experience, savvy and skills to get the job done at his or her business,” Collamer writes.

Check out examples based on a “three-step formula”

Here’s an example from a CNBC article, based on the “3-step formula” discussed in the piece.

“Do you know that most home sellers get less than they deserve? I am a realtor who markets homes and negotiates contracts, so my clients get the highest price and the best terms possible. I also do it in their preferred time scale and with the absolute minimum hassle.”

According to CNBC, the first step involves asking “a rhetorical question” to which you have a solution: “Is there a sales problem you need to fix?” The second step is to say something “simple,” like “What I do is to…”

The third and final step is to “focus on special values that clearly state how your customers or clients benefit in ways your listener probably won’t have thought of,” like, “Have you considered reaching out to prospective clients in this new industry? I can help you with that.

Simulate the experience in practice

An article by The Muse recommends practicing by yourself in an actual elevator, among other tips.

“The next time you ride an elevator (alone), practice your speech. First, give yourself some time by going to the highest floor. Then, try giving your pitch from a middle floor and from the first to the third floor, too. Having to make just a few brief moments count will help you to hone the words you need and scrap the ones you don’t!” it says.

To see how effective you are, you can use your phone to record yourself. Note if your voice sounds too high, too fast, too panicked, or too breathless. You want your pitch to be conversational, confident and in control. Practice will help you get there.