Once upon a time, elevators moved slow enough that the people who got on them actually wanted to have a conversation with the others who were sharing the ride. At some point, somebody got crafty and coined the phrase “elevator statement” for the mythical time when the CEO of a large company would be standing next to you, eager to hear about who you were and what you did.
Since then, elevators have gotten a bit faster. I’m also convinced that CEOs don’t take elevators to hear elevator statements anymore.
But that said, if you’re a freelance designer, or if you’re looking for your next job, elevator statements are still a good tool to have in your back pocket when someone asks you that wonderful question: “What do you do?”
Here’s a few tips I have based on creating a number of pitch statements throughout the years that have helped me sound professional when I answer.
And as soon as you’re done being concise, be even more concise.
What’s interesting, is how much people actually take away from your statement. If you begin to ramble or go off in a bunch of different tangents, they quickly lose interest in what you do.
If you bread too much about yourself, they lose interest. If you don’t brag enough about yourself, they don’t understand what you do. There’s a delicate balance.
You want somebody to be engaged, and you want them to remember what you do. It’s super easy to get sucked into a passionate speech about what you are and why you’re going to save the world. But most people aren’t as passionate about your work as you are.
Don’t assume they know specifics
It’s easy as designers to get passionate, and as a result, get into some of the nitty gritty details about what we do.
People don’t care that much about how Photoshop works or why it’s crucial to program a website. What they care about is how you’re solving a problem for them. When you’re able to tell somebody how you help others out, it helps them better frame what you do as a designer
As an example, let’s say you mention that you “make websites.” The way somebody can interpret that could be all over the board. Do you make websites for mom and pop shops? Do you make corporate websites? Can you help them with their kids website? It goes all over the place.
However, if you said you work with medium sized businesses who are working to get their their stores online and build successful ecommerce websites that helps narrow things down a little bit. It gets them thinking about how you make an impact on the businesses that you work with, or the people that you work for.
And it resonates better, because now they have a result tied to what you do. If you make something more awesome, they’re more likely to remember that.
Get feedback from others
It’s easy to get in your head about what needs to go into your elevator pitch, or what needs to come out of it.
The best advice I have on this, and it works great if you have a significant other or somebody willing to listen for a few minutes, is recite your elevator pitch to them. Then ask them to recite it back to you.
You’ll quickly see what sticks with someone listening and what they’re retaining. You can use this feedback to figure out what needs to stay in your elevator speech and what needs to come out of it.
If something isn’t resonating with somebody, they won’t remember it. The less they remember about it, the less they remember about you, and the less that your pitch was effective.
It does get a little awkward, but I promise it’s worth it. And it helps you stand out more when someone asks that question: “what do you do?”