When's the last time you thought about your elevator pitch? You know, that 30-second or less canned spiel you need to be prepared to whip out the moment a new acquaintance asks, "So, what do you do?"

You know you need one -- at least if you want to make a positive first impression. And, chances are, you already have some sort of rough pitch you use when those moments arise.

But, if you're like most people, you only think of changing your introduction when you land a new job or another equally major life event happens. Otherwise, it's not something you're reevaluating and refining on a constant basis.

Well, why not? During a time of year when you're shaking hands with so many new people -- the holiday parties seem endless -- it's best to ensure that your elevator pitch is polished and ready to impress. Get started with these four simple tweaks.

1. Tell Your Story

All too often, we respond to those, "What do you do?" inquiries with a cut and dried answer about just that -- what we do. But, we fail to touch on the other most important things: why and how well we do it.

Don't treat your elevator pitch as a chance to quickly run down the standard professional bulletpoints that people could read on your LinkedIn profile or your bio on the company website.

Instead, treat your pitch like a piece of a conversation (when you boil it down, that's what it is) and use this as your opportunity to inject some personality and tell your story in a way that couldn't be emulated anywhere else.

The more human you can make your elevator pitch (that means no running through those lines like a well-rehearsed robot), the more memorable and impactful it'll be.

2. Focus on the Future

Your traditional resume shares all of the places you've already been -- the positions and experiences that have led you to where you are now. But, your elevator pitch should be different from your resume. It should focus on where you're headed, instead of where you came from.

What are you working toward right now? What are your major goals for the next quarter or year? What big projects are you looking forward to completing?

Remember, when networking, you want people to get to know you, as well as what your current focus and your priorities are right now. So, you need to place your emphasis on those things during your elevator pitch.

3. Appeal to Your Audience

The term "elevator pitch" can be sort of misleading. It makes you think that there's this one-size-fits-all spiel that you can recite in any situation.

However, you don't want to take that blanket approach to your own pitch. You're much better off tailoring it to your specific audience and your particular purpose.

For example, the information you share in your pitch when you're speaking with a prospective client will probably be quite different from what you'd include when talking with an industry peer.

So, before falling back on those tried and true sentences you've recited time and time again, take some time to think. Who are you speaking to, and what are you hoping to gain from this exchange?

Knowing that will help you craft a pitch that's much more relevant, and therefore impressive.

4. Plan a Segue

There's always that awkward pause that crops up when networking -- that time when you've both spit out your elevator pitches, and are left wondering what exactly to talk about next.

It's for this reason that it's helpful for you to plan out some sort of segue ahead of time. Elevator pitches can be inherently unnatural and a little forced, so it's best if you have a way to transition into a more relaxed and natural conversation.

Unfortunately, this is tougher to do in the heat of the moment. So, have a few ideas stockpiled and at the ready -- whether it's a follow-up question about the other person's spiel or a funny story you like to share with new contacts.

Whatever works best for you is fine. Just come prepared with something so that you can nip that cringe-worthy silence in the bud. After all, your elevator pitch does very little good if it isn't followed by quality conversation.

An elevator pitch is something you know you need -- particularly during this festive time of year when you seem to constantly be meeting new people.

Beyond just having a response to that classic, "What do you do?" question, you also want your elevator pitch to be impressive and memorable. So, start by making these four quick tweaks to your existing pitch, and you're sure to make the right impression.

Published on: Nov 25, 2016
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