See Jane Compute

How often do you change your elevator pitch?

I’ve been in a situation this week where I’ve had to give my elevator pitch about my research quite a few times to quite a few people. Now, I have the standard spiel that I give, with various tweaks depending on how tech-savvy my audience is, that has evolved over time. But as I was repeating and repeating and repeating myself, I realized that it’s time for an overhaul.

I’m not talking a complete overhaul—the fundamentals of what I do haven’t changed. But my story is much different now. Or, at least the way I need to frame it is much different. Because I’ve had a lot of really good research luck lately, which means that I’ve gotten some really excellent results. We’re talking results that move us way past the “gee, I think this might work” to “gee, we really have something pretty darn fabulous here that works!”. The story itself is much more solid and compelling—a lot of what was “we hope to” is now “we’ve shown that”, and the “we hope to”s are much more far-reaching.

This got me wondering…and so I have some questions for you, my readers!

  1. How often do you change your elevator pitch? Are you a constant tweaker, or do you use the same spiel pretty much all the time?
  2. How do you determine that it’s time for an overhaul? And if you’ve ever overhauled your pitch substantially, how did you go about it?
  3. How many versions, approximately, of your elevator pitch do you use regularly or semi-regularly?
  4. Do you practice/try out new pitches, and if so, what’s your favorite strategy?

My answers:

  1. I’m a tweaker. I probably only do major changes every couple of years, depending on my results. But the pieces of the story—I mess with those a lot.
  2. I know it’s time for an overhaul when I find myself thinking, as I’m giving the spiel, “hm, that’s not so true anymore” or “hm, we actually already solved that/ruled that out”. I don’t think I could articulate my process, since as I mentioned, I’m constantly tweaking anyway.
  3. I probably have 4 versions of my pitch that I give on a regular basis.
  4. I don’t practice—I’ll usually just try out something new and see how it goes over in the moment. Earlier in my career, though, I had some great mentors who insisted on having me talk about my research *a lot* under all sorts of circumstances: short pitches to visitors, informal talks on work-in-progress, etc. So early on, I did get quite a bit of practice honing my message, to the point where I’m fairly comfortable giving it.

Comments

  1. #1 Peggy
    January 14, 2009

    When this post came up in my feed reader for some reason my eyes went directly to “I’m a tweaker”, and I instantly thought “my gawd you’re brave to admit that”. Then I read the rest of your post and felt very silly.

    Anyway, I’m not currently doing research, so I don’t have a science pitch. Back when I was, I came up with a general pitch formula and practiced it to death. I tend to get nervous, particularly talking to big shots, so having something prepared was quite comforting.

  2. #2 J-Dog
    January 14, 2009

    I didn’t have to pitch, when in school, but my knowledge learned from the business world says that anytime you have a major success, or major change in procedure or goal, you should change the pitch.

    Just don’t play elevator muzak….

  3. #3 ScienceWoman
    January 14, 2009

    I think some of this also applies to departmental faculty websites. The profile I submitted when I arrived on campus is not so true of the research directions I am pursuing now. Maybe it’s time for an overhaul?

  4. #4 Jane
    January 15, 2009

    hee hee, Peggy, I’m so naive that I didn’t even realize that tweak has an alternate meaning!

    J-Dog, that’s a good rule of thumb…and that explains, I guess, why I intuitively thought that maybe my pitch needs to be changed now.

    ScienceWoman, you are right about web pages too—I honestly don’t even know what mine says anymore! But that’s often the first impression that people outside of our institutions get of us, so we should be making sure that what’s there is on message, too.

  5. #5 Andie
    January 19, 2009

    Sciencewomen (I love your blog too!) I think you’re right on about the websites! I’m just a grad student but my lab’s website discusses my old research interests, not my new ones.
    Also, in the behavioral sciences I just find it easiest to be extremely vague and not use any technical language. My spiel is therefore pretty short and really doesn’t usually need tweaking.

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