Personal branding part 3: Your elevator pitch


  by Kath Magrobi

Personal branding part 3: Your elevator pitch

Here’s a challenge: Imagine you’re with Graca Machel. In somewhere between 30-90 seconds, try tell her – simply and succinctly –  what you do and why it matters.  

Now repeat the exercise – but first imagine you’re with your aged great-aunt; and then, with those grumps from the bank.

When you can do this without batting an eyelash, so that all audiences understand equally, and are equally enthused – you’ve got the hang of your elevator pitch!

Reading Time: 4 mins

Why everyone needs an elevator pitch

We’ve all had those moments.  Selling ourselves short to someone we’d rather like to impress. Either by saying nothing interesting ( “I work in research,” doesn’t explain how we’re radically breaking ground for food security). Or with complex and long-winded jargon that has them politely nodding while stifling yawns.

Cringe introductions leave out crucial points that explain what’s special about our work.  Good introductions make others excited about it as we are, and ready to do something because of that. The secret to this is a well crafted elevator pitch.

What is an elevator pitch?

The idea is to consider what you’d say to Graca Machel (or your choice of hero) to convey your work’s WOW factor if you found yourself in an elevator with them. And included in this, to know what you want out of a relationship with this person, and to have that included, as an ask.

And then to refine, hone and practise that ‘til you’re really fluent.  Knowing you have to pack everything into a maximum of ninety seconds – the time you’d have before the elevator doors opened, and they stepped out. 

Then, when anyone asks you about yourself. you use that as an opportunity to practise your pitch. And in that way, you get comfortable projecting your personal brand.

What makes for a good elevator pitch?

It’s quick: 

Thirty seconds is brilliant, 90 seconds is still pretty perky.

It’s comprehensive:

It covers all the things that matter the most, in the fewest words possible.

It’s clear:

Keep working at it ‘til you have your best language. Speak simply. Choose words that flow when you speak. Edit, practise, and repeat until your pitch sings. 

It sparkles:

You may use the same pitch ten times a day, but every time you say those words, you inject fresh verve in your voice. You spark enough interest for your audience to follow up any call to action (or ask) that you’ve included.

Moufouli Bello, Kiki is My Pet Friend, 2022

Me, myself and I

Here’s my elevator pitch, as an example:

“I’m Kath Magrobi, I run a feminist media non profit, Quote This Woman+. Currently only one in five news sources is a woman, so we have a database of women thought-leaders, activists and experts whose voices are unheard in mainstream African news – and we get journalists to use this.

It takes huge courage for women on our database to speak up in the face of prevailing patriarchal narratives and we also provide media and leadership training through a feminist lens. This starts by acknowledging the many social and cultural prohibitions to women\s voices and that simply being a front-runner isn’t enough to make many women comfortable to go on record. 

Our training focuses on the inner work almost all women need – building agency to speak up. 

I’d love to send you more info about us – can I have your email address?”

And here’s one from QW+ database member and TedX speaker, Augusta Dorning:

“My name is Dr Augusta Dorning and I am the Managing Partner of a boutique healthcare consultancy which takes good hospitals and makes them great.

I have 40 years of leadership experience in public, not-for-profit and private healthcare organisations and have served on Boards and in executive leadership roles for the past 35 years. I am an author, a practising academic and a TedX speaker.  My work in both the professional and social responsibility spheres has been internationally recognised and I am widely recognised as one of South Africa’s most influential women in healthcare and a positive role model.

I love speaking with people and writing about my experiences, particularly in healthcare. I am passionate about strengthening healthcare systems, making a difference, and growing aspiring healthcare leaders. I work with like-minded organisations seeking to bring about value-based care especially on the African Continent.

I am a serendipiter and bring people together to enrich and grow access to healthcare for all who need it.”

When is it best to use an elevator pitch?

Networking events:

Where you might meet potential clients or collaborators.

Job interviews:

A targeted elevator pitch is a way to showcase your skills and experience.


Think of all the people you’ll meet! Have your pitch ready and waiting. 

Email introductions:

Use your ready-made summary of who you are and what you offer here.

Online professional profiles:

LinkedIn, other social media, your own website. Use this pitch for each and your brand message will stay 100% consistent.

Grant or funding applications:

You can write an elevator pitch for your business, your project or research. It’s a great way to succinctly make the case for why it deserves support.

Five steps to YOUR elevator pitch

1. Note down what you do, how you do it, what the outcome of this is and what makes it, or you, unique. End with an opportunity for follow up. 

Check: Are you selling yourself short in any way? Imagine your best friend did your job, and you were writing this to tell everyone about them. Try again – and put in all those warm phrases!  

2. Now check it again. Change long, complex sentences. Make it sound like you speak (top tip: read it aloud). Add something attention-grabbing at the beginning. We’ll say it again for emphasis: edit, practise and repeat until your pitch positively sings.

3. Now record yourself saying the pitch. Check for repetition, clumsy phrasing, or overt sales language. Make sure you can stay within 30-90 seconds without talking too fast. Need changes? Edit, practise, repeat until you’re happy.

4. Practise on friends and family, from school-going age to older retirees. Ask: do I sound confident, natural and enthusiastic? Am I explaining what I do simply? Do I need to remove jargon? Have I left anything important out?

5. Now practise, practise, practise – until it rolls off your tongue like second nature. And then you’re  ready to start talking on that next ride in a lift! Let us know how it goes in the blog comments. 


First month: Building your personal brand

Last month: Crafting a personal tagline

This month: The art of the elevator pitch

Next month: Putting it all together

Interesting reading:  Do you find it difficult to speak about your accomplishments? Read this

The QW+ personal branding course draws on material we use in our media training. It is a unique blend of leadership and media skills training offered through an unabashedly feminist lens. Contact to discuss your organisation’s training needs. 

Featured image: Lesley Carnock – The Lady Wears Shweshwe