The elevator pitch gets its name from the terrifying moment when you find yourself taking an elevator with the professional contact of your dreams and have just a few floors' worth of time to win that person over. Realistically, though, this situation happens in much less claustrophobic environments. But because first impressions are so important, it's smart to have your elevator pitch available when you're first introducing yourself in any networking situation.

Crafting the perfect elevator pitch is fairly simple, and it's well worth the time.

Finger pressing an elevator button

Image source: Getty Images.

What goes into the perfect elevator pitch?

The perfect elevator pitch is as succinct as it is powerful. In no more than 30 seconds, you need to convey two things:

  • What problem do you solve?
  • What makes you the best at solving it?

Sure, you might wear a dozen different hats and solve multiple problems every day. But it's essential that you distill everything you do down to a single point. Say you're the marketing manager for a blog. You're the graphic designer for the visual ads, you're the copywriter for the text ads, and you pay all the bills for the various ad platforms. What ties all these things together? You're the one who gets more eyeballs on content that otherwise may never be discovered.

To the second point, proving you're the best at solving a problem involves a bit of self-reflection. What makes you uniquely positioned for success in your field? As legendary investor Chris Sacca has put it, what's your unfair advantage? Sacca explained on the first episode of the podcast Startup that he's interested in investing only in companies where it's clear the leaders are able of producing results no one else can – to the extent that it's seemingly unfair.

How to craft your pitch

You know your message. Now how do you best communicate it? First things first: Lead off with your strongest point. The worst thing you can do is bore the person right off the bat and have him or her tune you out before you've gotten to the good stuff.

Recognize both what you're looking for and what you have to offer, and find the intersection of those two things. Not only is doing so helpful for coming out of the gate with an emotional draw, but it's also essential for shaping your entire message. For example, are you trying to get hired creating compelling graphics? Are you looking to find new customers for your business that boosts websites' search rankings? Are you able to take clients' marketing to the next level in exchange for a consulting fee?

Your golden intersection might change depending on the person sharing your metaphorical elevator. In that case, you'll want to be prepared with several different versions of your pitch tailored to different situations. In every single one of them, however, make sure you keep your desires and your value proposition in mind.

Taking your pitch to the next level

Edit, edit, edit. Take your first draft and see if you can chop it to half the length. The name of the game is brevity. Don't worry about impressive language – succinctly communicating your message is much more important.

Once you have your elevator pitch written and edited, practice it. If you can't get it out flawlessly under no pressure, do you really think you'll avoid choking when the big moment hits? Even better: Practice in front of someone who can give you honest feedback.

The delivery is important. If you don't feel passionate about your words, you won't be remembered. Your pitch should excite you, and you should light up accordingly when you deliver it.

Body language is also essential, so make sure you practice in front of a mirror or record yourself, to make sure your physical cues are sending the right message.

Your elevator pitch in real life

Be prepared to deliver your elevator pitch in situations other than an elevator. You might find yourself with a golden opportunity to make a new connection while sharing an Uber ride or while you're in line at the coffee shop. You never know when someone may ask "So what do you do?" (If Washington, D.C., is any indication, that can happen literally anywhere.)

After you've delivered your pitch, your new contact may want to, well, contact you. So you should always carry a business card on you. You don't want to blow someone away and have no way for that person to contact you after the moment is over.

Once you're fully prepared with your well-written, diligently practiced elevator pitch, you'll never again be caught unprepared when a golden opportunity strikes.