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Use an Elevator Pitch to Effectively Communicate Your Work

Have you heard an “elevator speech”? It’s a brief summary of who you are, what you do, and your career or project goals—with an emphasis on brief. Imagine running into the CEO of the dream company you’d like to work for, while waiting in line for coffee or taking an elevator: you will need a well-planned pitch that you can deliver concisely, clearly, and with confidence. Your elevator speech is an abbreviated version of your response to the common job interview question, “Tell me about yourself.” Having a well-prepared pitch to share at a moment’s notice is essential to grabbing your audience’s attention—and to leave them wanting to learn more about you. An elevator speech is also easy to tailor for different audiences, once you have your first draft.

Basic guidelines

  1. Keep it short (30 seconds to 2 minutes).
  2. Capture the person’s attention early and state your goals clearly.
  3. Focus on the why. This will convey the big picture and the importance of your work.
  4. Consider the audience: don’t use jargon or acronyms that your listener may not understand.
  5. Tell your story with enthusiasm.
  6. Make it personal: it is about you, your work or research, your strengths.
  7. Leave some room for the imagination. People will definitely ask follow up questions, if they are interested in learning more about you.

Invited by the Office of Postdoc Affairs and Core Programs—Office of Graduate Student Affairs in The Graduate School, Dr. Mike Matrone, Associate Director for Office of Career & Professional Development at the University of California, San Francisco led a workshop on this topic in late August. To help you get started on drafting your elevator speech, below are example prompts from the workshop.

An easy way to start drafting your elevator speech

Example 1: You’re interviewing for your dream job, and are expected to answer, “Tell me about your research.”

  • I am a ______/ I study_____
Supporting Details
  • My question is…
  • My approach is…
Findings & Conclusion
  • I discovered that _________________
  • This is important because _______________
  • In the future______________

Example 2: You’re a speaker at TEDx Seattle.

Bottom line
  • My name is _____________ and I am a ____________.
So what?
  • Did you know___? / Every year___
  • I found that___
  • This is significant because ___
Supporting details
  • I did this by___
  • Nuggets of what’s next

Last but not least, the elevator speech is not something you can make up on the spot. It’s important to think ahead, prepare a draft, and practice your delivery. Practice is always the key to success. Practice with peers or mentors. Check out the following resources below on crafting an elevator speech.


Core Programs—Office of Graduate Student Affairs

The Graduate School