“The best elevator pitch doesn’t feel like an elevator pitch,” says Dorie Clark. “It feels like a conversation.”
Clark is a marketing strategist, an adjunct professor of business administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and the author of multiple books, the most recent of which is “Entrepreneurial You.”
The goal of telling someone about yourself, according to Clark, is simply to “achieve conversational liftoff.” You don’t need to cram in every detail about your life and career — that will come out over time.
We asked Clark for her best advice on crafting and delivering a solid elevator pitch, or “selling yourself,” if you will. Read on for her top tips.
Consider your audience and personalize the pitch to them.
You wouldn’t send the same exact résumé and cover letter to every company where you’re applying. The same logic applies to elevator pitches: You want to personalize as much as possible.
“You can make a better and deeper connection with people if you can be thoughtful about what elements would resonate,” Clark said.
Say, for example, that the person you’re speaking with works in finance and you used to work in finance. You might open the conversation by talking about the way your finance background still informs the work you do today.
Wait as long as possible in the conversation to give your pitch.
Clark said she advises clients to give only a brief answer to “Tell me about yourself” at networking events. The next step is to draw the other person out.
“If you can find ways to engage the other person upfront and ask as many questions as possible about them, it will enable you … to find more hooks so that what you’re talking about is relevant to them.”
Keep the pitch to about 30 seconds.
Brevity is key. Stick to about 30 seconds when you’re delivering your elevator pitch.
“The goal is not to stun people into silence with your amazing monologue,” Clark said. “The goal is to engage them in a conversation.”
Don’t stick to a script.
Having a general outline of what you want to convey is fine. But Clark has noticed that many people get so nervous that they’re “overly scripted.”
She said, “It’s like they’re so afraid of getting something wrong or leaving something out that they can’t be natural about it. So instead they sound a little bit robotic.”
Unfortunately, your conversation partner is “left with the impression that it’s not that you are really interested in learning about them — it’s more that you’re interested in delivering your message to whoever will listen.”
Bring a wingman to deliver your pitch for you.
If possible, Clark recommends heading to networking events with a friend. “Make a pact with the friend beforehand that you’ll serve as each other’s wingman,” she said.
That way, you don’t really have to deliver an elevator pitch — they do it for you, and vice versa.
Not only does it relieve some of the pressure on you. It also “enables the other person to essentially brag on your behalf to an extent that would be inappropriate for you to do yourself.”
If you’re heading to an event alone, Clark still recommends speaking with friends, coworkers, and clients beforehand “to see what it is that they think is most special or distinctive about you.” It works because “they’ll be able to see things” — great things — “that you might not.”
This article originally appeared in BusinessInsider.com.