Who You Are Professionally in a 20-Second Sound Bite

Sunday a week ago, I heard a story on NPR’s Weekend Sunday Edition that could benefit your copywriting career.

No, it wasn’t about copywriting, advertising, or marketing. It was an interview with musicians Ernesto & Alberto Villalobos and their band, The Villalobos Brothers.

I love their music. But I loved even more what Ernesto Villalobos said about the band’s “elevator pitch.”

[Host] Eric Westervelt: “Oh, that’s wonderful. [Your music] has evolved. [You describe] it as high-octane Mexican fiddling.”

Ernesto Villalobos: “Contemporary. Don’t forget contemporary, Eric. That’s our five-word elevator pitch. Contemporary, high-octane Mexican fiddling.”

Why did Ernesto Villalobos feel he needed to correct the host with that one missing word – contemporary?

Because the band wants their elevator pitch to get across exactly how they view the music they play.

And that must be the purpose of your elevator pitch: To let potential clients, visitors to your website, and anyone interested in what you do know, in a few words, exactly what you do.

And, in the case of potential clients, why they should hire you.

How to craft your elevator pitch …

Here’s how Forbes describes the elevator pitch …

“If you’re looking for a job, one of the first tasks on your to-do list should be crafting an ideal ‘elevator pitch.’ It’s the 20- to 30-second speech that summarizes who you are, what you do, and why you’d be a perfect candidate.”

Your elevator pitch should be simple enough that anyone, including your mother (as Business Know-How says), should be able to understand it.

To get what you want to say into 20 to 30 seconds takes work. Plan on spending at least a day (more if possible) crafting your elevator pitch. Here’s what you want to communicate:

1. Tell them who you are.

Start by introducing yourself by name. If you have a company name (not necessary), include that, too.

Hello, I’m Marcus Smith of New Marketing Horizons.

Simple enough. The next part, however, is the core of your pitch …

2. Tell them what you do.

This is your headline and lead all rolled into one and shrunken down to a few words. You’ll spend the most time developing and revising this part of your pitch.

Write down as many as 10 or more versions of what you want to say. Focus on the biggest benefits you offer and your USP (unique selling proposition).

I write sales letters for high-tech companies who market products to other companies. I have over 20 years’ experience in the electronics industry as an engineer. I’ve also developed a quick customer survey that allows me to target what businesses need and want from high-tech equipment suppliers. I use this survey to successfully close sales.

Notice I avoided using words like B2B and copywriting. The person you’re speaking to may know what those words mean. But if they don’t, you’ve lost the opportunity to communicate what you do and what you can do for them. So, avoid jargon.

3. Tell them what you are looking for.

This part of your elevator pitch will vary with the persons or circumstances you’re pitching to. Fortunately, this is an easy part of the pitch, so it’s easy to vary.

Let’s say you’re at Bootcamp Job Fair, speaking with a potential client in the B2B-electronics sector.

I’d love the opportunity to show you the quality of writing I can do for Magnificent Electronics by writing a spec assignment for you.

On the other hand, let’s say you’re interviewing for a definite job with Magnificent Electronics. You might say …

I’d love the opportunity to work with your marketing department and write benefit-based sales letters.

While writing your various versions, time each one to get the approximate length. Don’t worry about fitting the 30-second time frame right now. Just come close.

Polishing, cutting, and perfecting …

After you’ve written several versions of your pitch, set them aside for awhile. (A day or more would be good.) After you let them rest, read through all of them. Pick out the best parts, combine them, move things around. Revise and rework.

Once you’re satisfied with your final version, time it. If it’s under 30 seconds and says what you want, great! If it’s over 30 seconds, don’t figure you can speed up your pitch to get it all in. Remove unnecessary words to bring to the proper length.


So far, you’ve been concentrating on writing your elevator pitch. While it can work as an intro to your website or as a lead to your self-promo letter, ultimately, you’re going to speak it.

So, practice your elevator pitch until you can recite it smoothly. Don’t worry about getting it word-for-word every time. You want it to sound natural. Practicing it many times gives you an inner sense of what you want to say without having it sound like something you memorized for your sixth-grade English class.

One last consideration. When you practice, practice in front of a mirror or, better, in front of a friend. Pay attention to your body language, which conveys as much about you as your words do.

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Published: July 6, 2015

2 Responses to “Who You Are Professionally in a 20-Second Sound Bite”

  1. Thanks Will for a very helpful article. I've always had difficulty with self promotion and I think this will help.

    Denise BarbiniJuly 13, 2015 at 9:36 am

  2. Thanks Will, I have assumed professionals would know what we mean by terminology such as "B2B", "copy", etc... My family and other lay people do not.
    For this reason, I have had two speeches.
    I need to use "Behavioral Health" instead of "Mental Health" in my business name and website due to SEO because this is the terminology that the industry is currently using. I'm afraid this is confusing and that I will have to explain myself repeatedly, even to those in the industry.
    I agree, practice!

    Nora KingJuly 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

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