How to pitch your research in 30 seconds

  • Publish & Present

Prepare an elevator pitch on yourself and your research to make sure you never miss good opportunities to present your work. Below you’ll find a pitch recipe to get started.

While in line for coffee during a conference break, you end up next to a professor you admire. You introduce yourself, and she asks you about your work. You open your mouth but realize you don’t know what to say. The break is over before you know it, and the professor leaves for the next session. You feel disappointed and can’t stop thinking that she would have stayed long enough to schedule a meeting if you had been better prepared.

You may have been in a similar situation. Opportunities to introduce your work can come unexpectedly, and for these situations, it is good to have an elevator pitch at hand.

What is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is a short speech to trigger interest in yourself and your work. The pitch should answer three questions: Who are you? What do you do? What do you want? As the name implies, a good elevator pitch should not last longer than it takes to ride an elevator, about 30-60 seconds.

Why are they important?

A good elevator pitch helps you to introduce yourself and your research compellingly. The elevator pitch can be used at networking events, when you meet with potential collaborators or journalists, at a job interview, or in a funding application. The elevator pitch can also be used outside the academic setting to present your work to family, friends, or new acquaintances. By having prepared and rehearsed an elevator pitch, you will be able to introduce yourself confidently in any situation.

How to write and deliver an elevator pitch

1. Introduce yourself

Start your pitch by giving your full name, and add a pleasantry like “It’s nice to meet you!” Smile!

2. Summarize what you do

Then give a brief summary of your background and your current work. Adapt this part to the listener. If you are at a job interview, you may want to emphasize your background and skills more than if you talk to a potential collaborator, who may be more interested in your current work. When you present your research, focus on the long-term or overall aim. If the listener is interested, they will ask for the details.

3. Explain what you want

What you say here depends on who you pitch to and why. Maybe you want to be considered for a job opportunity, a project collaboration, or simply get the listener’s contact information? In any case, mention what the listener will gain from your interaction, such as why you would be a good candidate for the job. Focus on what you have to offer.

4. Finish with a call to action

End your elevator pitch by saying what you would like to happen next. It could be to express interest in a job, set up a meeting, or receive the listener’s contact information.

How to avoid common mistakes

1. Speak naturally

Try to give your pitch in a conversational tone so it doesn’t sound too rehearsed. Writing down bullet points of what you want to present, rather than a complete script, may be helpful. However, if you prefer the latter, practice saying it aloud until it comes naturally.

Tip: Practice giving your elevator pitch. First, say it out loud in front of a mirror, then to a friend or colleague. This will help you know if the message is clear and whether you keep it on time.

2. Speak slowly

Remember that your pitch will present new information to your audience, and they will need time to process every bit of it. Therefore, speak slowly so that no important points are missed. If you are nervous, you will most likely talk faster. When you rehearse, keep this in mind, and make a conscious effort to speak slowly.

3. Tailor your pitch to the audience

While you may want to prepare a general pitch that can be used in any situation, it is good to tailor it to your audience. For example, you can include a reference to the listener’s work. If you know that the listener is working on the same cancer model as you do, you can bring this up. By being personal, you show interest and respect for the listener’s time.

Tip: Think through how to tailor the pitch to different audiences and prepare a few rehearsed alternatives. This will help you feel more confident when an opportunity to give your pitch comes up.

4. Make your pitch easy to understand

Use everyday language that anyone can understand, and keep a general audience in mind when preparing your pitch. It is a good idea to present your pitch to someone unfamiliar with your work, like family or friends, to see if they understand it.

5. Express confidence

Be aware of your body language. If you are nervous, you may fiddle with your fingers, avoid eye contact, or cross your arms. Make an effort to appear friendly, open, and confident.

Key takeaways: Take your time. Make it conversational. Express confidence.

Example

Here is an example of an elevator pitch, which you can use as a guideline to create your pitch. You can find more examples in the articles listed below under “Further reading.” Good luck!

1. Start by introducing yourself: “Hi, my name is Sara Jansen; it’s nice to meet you!”

2. Provide a summary of what you do: “I have a Ph.D. in cancer immunology and work as a researcher at the Institute for Cancer Research. My work aims to help tailor blood cancer treatment to each patient’s disease by identifying biomarkers that can predict treatment outcome.”

3. Explain what you want: “I find the clinical work you do on leukemia very interesting, and I would be happy to contribute with my expertise.”

4. Finish with a call to action: “Would it be ok if I contact you to schedule a meeting to discuss a possible collaboration?”

Further reading

Alison Doyle. How to Create an Elevator Pitch with Examples. thebalancecareers, January 27, 2021. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/elevator-speech-examples-and-writing-tips-2061976

Indeed Editorial Team. How To Give an Elevator Pitch (With Examples). Indeed career guide, May 24, 2021. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/interviewing/how-to-give-an-elevator-pitch-examples

Mind Tools Content Team. Crafting an Elevator Pitch. MindTools, Downloaded on July 28, 2021. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/elevator-pitch.htm

Nancy Collamer. The Perfect Elevator Pitch To Land A Job. Forbes, February 4, 2013. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/02/04/the-perfect-elevator-pitch-to-land-a-job/?sh=767746001b1d