Most of us find ourselves, at one time or another, in a situation in which we need to explain what we do very briefly. To avoid the tendency to go on at length, we encourage you to develop and practice a 30-second (or less) “elevator” speech that you could give at a moment’s notice—and in the time it would take to ride from the ground floor to the top floor of an office building or hotel.

“Tell Me a Little Bit About Yourself...” 

To develop a brief, razor-sharp description of who you are and what you do, first answer the following questions:

Who are you talking to?  
Consider these questions in crafting your description:

  • How familiar are they with your subject matter?
  • What are their biases/interests?
  • How can you connect your topic to what they care about?

What’s your message?
A message is a statement that describes what a person or organization is, does, or most importantly, believes. Hone the 1-2 key messages or take-aways from your work. Avoid jargon or acronyms that your listener may not know or understand.  This message(s) should answer one or more of the following:

  • Why is this work important?
  • What makes your research/project unique?
  • What are the short- or long-term benefits?
  • Why should the person/audience care?

Can you make it personal?
Relating a relevant biographical note or a crisp anecdote that points to why you were led to this work or research is an effective way to connect with your audience.

Can you tell a story?
A short (say 10-15 second) story about a client, friend or person would could benefit from, or is involved in your work can go a long way toward getting your message across. It will shrink the rest of your elevator speech, but you may be surprised by how much information can be carried in a narrative.

Then Practice!  
Practice with a friend or colleague (preferably someone not too familiar with your work). Consider recording your elevator speech and reviewing it to fine-tune the content as well as your delivery.

Remember:  The best descriptions leave the listener wanting more. If you succeed with your 30-second presentation, you’ll likely have three or four more minutes to elaborate on your work!

More Help: Resources on Elevator Speeches

Message Modules – Use Your Elevator Pitch as the Building Block for Stronger Content from Nancy Schwartz & Co.

How to Craft an Effective Elevator Speech by Chris King.

Preparing Your Elevator Speech from the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University.

An Elevator Speech—an Indispensable Tool for Self Promotion by Molly Gordon, Master Certified Coach.