UW Graduate School

October 19, 2019

Elevator Speech: An Effective Way to Communicate Your Work

Have you heard about the concept of 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 to different audiences, once you have your first draft done.

Basic rules to follow:

  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. It conveys 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, 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 2019. 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”.

Background

  • 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, or come to our office hours for feedback. In addition to the examples above, check out the following informational resources on crafting an elevator speech.