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The premise of an elevator pitch is simple. You communicate who you are in the time it would take to ride an elevator. The problem: What sounds good to you probably won’t pique their interests.

You often have less than a minute to deliver your elevator speech. If your target isn’t compelled by what you’re saying, that could be the end of the conversation. The purpose of your elevator speech should be to convince the other person that holding a full conversation with you is in their best interest.

Instead of bombarding a person with a pared-down version of your resume, start with something substantial. The rest will follow.

The Pain Statement

A pain statement is very similar to the pain letter tactic I discussed in my last blog. You start by empathizing with a pain point in the person’s company or your mutual industry. It makes them realize that you are in touch with the industry and their specific needs.

Connecting the Dots

Once you’ve confirmed that the other person is interested in the topic you’ve presented, it’s your time to shine.

How can you alleviate their pain? What past experience gives you the unique capability to showcase success with the issue at hand?

Connecting your expertise with a potential solution to a problem positions you as a thoughtful leader with more to offer than a decent resume.

Proceed with Caution

Using a pain statement has the same potential pitfalls of a pain letter, but the risk is arguably higher. If you don’t do proper research and the pain point you’re addressing is inaccurate, you won’t have the power you’re aiming for. Unlike a letter, you can’t backspace and reword your elevator speech. It has to be right the first time.

On the other hand, you have more control of your tone in an in-person conversation than you do if a person is simply reading your words. You can more easily ensure that you don’t come across as arrogant or “salesy.”

Starting with a pain statement is no riskier than the boring elevator pitch you’ve used for years. The only difference is that this tactic has a better chance of starting a genuine and productive conversation that is mutually beneficial for both parties involved.

How to Prepare

You should always have a general elevator speech sitting in your back pocket. If you’re well-researched and up-to-date with the latest news in your career field, you should be able to present a great pitch at any time.

Personally, I would recommend that you practice as often as possible. If you start by delivering pain letter-style elevator pitches to people outside your industry, it could surprisingly be an easy way to boost your confidence. You have nothing to lose, so you won’t be as nervous. Then, you’ll be able to prove to yourself that you’re capable of impressing the right people when the time comes.

When you know who your audience is and you have time to prepare thoroughly, you can tailor your speech further, and possibly anticipate their follow-up questions.

If you’re prepared, confident and passionate, you’re well on your way to pitching yourself successfully.