What Your Elevator Pitch Should NOT Be

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Your elevator pitch. It’s that short and powerful spiel that shares what you do and just how amazing you are at it — and you know you need one. That all sounds simple enough, right? But, then it comes time for you to actually recite that speech you prepared. Your nerves jump from your stomach to your throat, all of those things you were supposed to say fly right out of your brain, and you’re left standing there slack-jawed, clammy-palmed, and shaky kneed.

Don’t worry, it’s not just you — we’ve all been there. Crafting and then delivering the perfect elevator pitch might sound easy. But in reality, it’s anything but. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to instantly kick your spiel up a notch. Where should you begin? Start by staying far, far away from these six common mistakes.

1. You’re Not Offering Value

If there’s only one thing you remember, make it this: Your elevator pitch should not only share what you do, it should also explain how well and why you do it. You need to go beyond something matter of fact like, “I’m an accountant” in order to adequately outline the value you bring to the table. So, with that in mind, something like, “I’m an accountant focused on helping small, independent businesses successfully manage their finances and maximize their income,” holds much more impact. Your elevator pitch isn’t just a chance for you to outline your day-to-day responsibilities. So, don’t neglect to touch on why what you do is important.

2. You’re Only Focused on the Past

Similarly to the point above, you shouldn’t place all of your emphasis on the things you have done — you also need to leave some room to talk about the things you’re aiming to do. Yes, it’s great to touch on those major things you’ve already accomplished. However, you still need to make it a point to discuss some of your goals for the future as well. After all, the past will only get you so far. Rest assured that this doesn’t need to be anything overly complex. Instead of of saying something like, “I’m a journalist focused mainly on fitness topics. I’ve won several awards for my work,” you would say, “I’m an award-winning fitness journalist. Moving forward, I’m also aiming to broaden my niche to write about health and nutrition.”

3. You’re Fidgeting

You could have the most perfectly polished elevator pitch that exists. But, if you recite the entire thing while shuffling your feet, biting your lip, tugging at the hem of your shirt, or maintaining steady eye contact with the floor, you probably aren’t going to make the splash you’re hoping for. Fidgeting is distracting for your conversational partner, and only serves to make you look uneasy — which, as a result, undermines your confidence. So, make your best effort to stand with your head high, your feet shoulder-width apart, and make gestures away from your body. Practice with a friend if you have to!

4. You’re Over-Selling Yourself

Yes, the very purpose of an elevator pitch is to sell yourself and your skills. But, there’s a fine line you need to walk here — you don’t want to overdo it. For example, don’t label yourself as a “sales expert” if you have little to no sales experience under your belt. Or, don’t credit yourself as an “Excel whiz” if you finally just figured out how to adjust the width of a column. While you want your elevator pitch to summarize what an impressive professional you are, you also want (ahem, need) it to be honest. So, don’t go overboard with those showy claims. Remember, this isn’t an infomercial.

5. You’re Rambling Incessantly

Do you know why it’s called an “elevator pitch”? Way back when, sometimes a short elevator ride in the office was the only opportunity employees had to impress a higher-level executive. What lesson can you take from that anecdote? Well, your elevator needs to be short — in fact, it needs to be as concise and persuasive as you can make it. Remember, the goal of your pitch isn’t to share your entire career journey. Instead, it only needs to hit a few major highlights. Avoid rambling endlessly, and you’ll actually manage to keep your conversational partner engaged in what you’re saying.

6. You’re Over-Rehearsing

There’s a lot to be said for practicing your elevator pitch — it can make you feel that much more confident when it’s time to actually recite it. However, beware the trap of over-rehearsing. When it comes time for you to actually share your spiel, you don’t want to spit it out as fast as you can — while barely taking any time to breathe — and send the message that you’re just trying to get through it as fast as humanly possible. That approach will backfire and only make you appear more nervous.

So, remember to run through it just a few times. But, you don’t need to have it so committed to memory that you sound like you spent the last three full days rehearsing in front of your bathroom mirror. You want to be conversational — not stiff and boring. You know your elevator pitch is important. But, that doesn’t mean putting together the perfect one is easy. Stay away from these six common mistakes, and you’ll be well on your way to a spiel that adequately shares what an accomplished professional you are (no clammy palms or shaky knees required).

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