A WorkSphere survey released in September by Spherion Staffing Services reveals that, for the most part, employees can articulate what they do for a living in 30 seconds or less. Eighty-nine percent of employees feel confident in their ability to give an “elevator speech,” which suggests that a large portion of the workforce is equipped with the right tools to win the next job, promotion, raise, or company award.

Hiring managers have long lauded the “elevator speech” as the ticket to career advancement. Given that the majority of workers are able to eloquently describe their jobs in elevator pitches, how do individuals make their speeches stand out from the crowd? And for job seekers who don’t have an elevator speech at the ready, what are the right (and most important) things to highlight in the short span of the elevator speech?

Titles Are Tough

One stumbling block many people experience while attempting to streamline their speech is their job title. More than a quarter (27 percent) of employees think that their job title misrepresents their role at work, and 24 percent say job titles impact their job satisfaction.

“It’s important for a title to be reflective of the job the employee is responsible for,” says Spherion President Sandy Mazur. “When job titles are representative of the role of the titleholder, the employee is more likely to be aware of where they fit in the overall picture of the company and compared to their peers in the industry.”

Quick Tips for a Better Elevator Speech

Coupled with a well-fitting job title, the following specific techniques can make one elevator pitch more engaging than the next, according to Mazur:

  1. Begin by leaving your audience wanting more: “By saying something they don’t expect, you will make them want to listen to what you have to say.”
  2. Don’t be formulaic: “Being unpredictable and exciting can better showcase your personality and increase the likelihood of a future conversation.”
  3. Talk with them, not at them: “In general, people are more open to dialogue than lectures. Even if that means you don’t get to every point in your speech, giving the other person room to ask a question or two ultimately makes the exchange more unique and memorable.”
  4. Read your audience: “If the person you are talking to isn’t into the conversation or seems disinterested, don’t force it.”
  5. Rehearse, but don’t sound rehearsed: “The Spherion survey found that more than a fifth (21 percent) of employees find it challenging to explain what they do for a living. So, it’s important to know what you want to say and practice saying it, but when it’s time to deliver your elevator speech, repeating a memorized speech filled with jargon won’t stand out.”

The anatomy of a successful speech starts with a clean slate.

“Because a typical elevator speech is about 30 seconds or less, it’s important to map out the essential information to describe who you are in the beginning of the process,” says Mazur.

Start with a blank piece of paper and outline everything you would want say if you had an unlimited amount of time. From there, you can start to edit your speech, eliminating any impertinent or unnecessary information until you have a clear, compact, 30-second speech. Remaining positive and excluding boring details provides fertile ground for a successful elevator speech.

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