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By Africa S. Hands

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Usually 30-60 seconds in length, the elevator pitch is thought to be one of the most important tools used to describe what you or your business does. How do information professionals describe their work? How do you plant the seed of curiosity?


When asked about your work, do you simply state your job title or do you have a formal “elevator pitch”? Usually 30-60 seconds in length, the elevator pitch is thought to be one of the most important tools used to describe what you or your business does. Crafting and routinely practising this statement “ensures that you are always able to put your best foot forward as your business grows ... and your client base expands”, writes Aileen Pincus of Bloomberg Businessweek. Most professionals have developed one and use it semi-regularly at networking or other events.

An issue with the elevator pitch is that many times it is a convoluted explanation of one’s work or business leaving the listener confused and seasick in a wave of jargon. The listener simply may want to know what you can do for them or their business, or what you do day in and day out for work. If you don’t work, this is an opportunity to share other interests, activities, and unique qualities you possess. Ideally, if the listener genuinely wants to know more about you, she will ask questions and engage you regardless of your pitch.

Nevertheless, we are continually reminded that we must craft an elevator speech to share information about our work or business. A canned speech can come over as such so it’s desirable to have a pitch that flows naturally. How do you craft an effective elevator pitch? Do you use the fill-in-the-blanks method telling the listener what problem you solve and for whom? Do you say “I’m an information professional” and wait for the listener to ask questions? The thing is the listener may not ask clarifying questions.

It’s up to you to plant the seed of curiosity.

Harvard Business School Alumni Career Services has made available an online Elevator Pitch Builder. The Builder guides you through a four-step process wherein you describe who you are, what you do, why you are unique, and your goal. If you need help finding the right words, there is a scrolling list of suggestions you can plug into your pitch. At the end, an analysis displays the length of your pitch and repeated words. Users may email and print the pitch for future use. Pretty simple, right?

Information professionals are multi-talented individuals with varied skills and interest areas. Given our diverse information ninja skills it is sometimes challenging to craft just the right elevator pitch. You may have different speeches for different audiences; in fact it’s recommended that your speech is tailored to your audience and goals.

Not yet employed? It’s even more important to develop a pitch. Use this worksheet to get started. Have a pitch that’s worked especially well for you? Tell us about it in the comments.

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