Your elevator pitch -- 20 seconds to make an impression

Picture the scenario; you are an intern or junior staffer in the elevator of your work building, and a Vice President walks in… what do you do?

Do you burst into tears, fall on your knees and beg for a job? Or do you seize the moment and deliver your elevator pitch?

This brief but persuasive 20-second pitch is your chance to engage a potential employer in conversation in a confident but respectful way.  By using this opportunity correctly, you can make a strong impression and turn them into a lasting connection.

Here are some tips for your elevator pitch.

Be natural.

If you try to hero worship them, they won’t take you seriously.  Likewise, if you deliver the speech like you’ve been practicing it in the mirror, they won’t take you seriously.

Be respectful but confident.  If you want a job working for them somewhere down the line, you have to earn their respect.  A great way to do this is to bring up a topic of mutual interest. Perhaps you saw them speak, or read one of their articles.  Draw from that to start a conversation.

Instead of “Wow it’s amazing to meet you, I’m a huge fan of… and I’ve always wanted to work there.”

Try “Hi… my name is… and I work at… I attended your recent talk on… and you made some really interesting points.”

Don’t ask them for anything.

Most executives are experienced enough to separate those legitimately interested in them and their organizations from the users simply trying to find their next job or promotion.

Just like with any networking opportunity, the goal is to establish a relationship and then you can work on turning them into a connection.  Be genuine and show a legitimate interest in them.  By getting their business card, you can follow up and ask them for coffee later.

Instead of: “I saw that there’s a vacancy at… I’d like to apply; would you give the recruiter my resume?”

Try: “How did you come to work in…?  I am interested in pursuing a career in this field and would value any advice you have.”

Let them talk.

Most people enjoy talking about themselves, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage.  By letting someone talk about himself or herself, you are demonstrating a legitimate interest in them and allowing the conversation to flow naturally rather than simply pitching yourself.  The disadvantage of this can be that by letting them do all the talking, you don’t get the chance to impress.

Try to establish a connection with what they’re saying and something you have accomplished.  For example, if they talk about public policy, try to contribute to the conversation and offer an informed opinion.

Instead of: “That’s interesting… yes… I understand.”

Try: “That’s a good point; I have recently been working on a similar project to…”

Swap business cards and follow up.

If possible, you should aim to swap business cards at the end of the conversation.  Remember, it is more important to get their business card than it is to give them yours.  By getting their card, you give yourself the opportunity to follow up and turn a chance encounter into a real connection.

Instead of: “Here is my business card, if you’re free for coffee sometime I’d love to learn more.”

Try: “Do you have a business card on you?  I would be very interested to follow up with you can continue this conversation at your convenience.”

When chance encounters occur with your role models, it can be a daunting experience.  If you show confidence, sell yourself, and show a legitimate interest, you will be able to use the opportunity to secure a lasting connection.