Your personal MBA elevator pitch is a compelling and concise conversation starter that expresses who you are, what you’re passionate about and what’s motivating you to pursue the MBA. In essence, it’s your brand statement. It’s valuable in the context of networking events with faculty members, alumni and students because you get about 30-60 seconds to make a stellar first impression (the time it takes to ride a few floors in an elevator.) Your elevator pitch is about inspiring interest and opening the door to further conversation.
As you develop your pitch, your objective is a statement that’s brief, targeted to the audience you’re hoping to reach and goal-oriented. I’ve heard of a lot of pitch statements—from my career in admissions and student affairs at Carnegie Mellon Tepper and Berkeley Haas to my coaching role at Fortuna. With MBA interview invitations beginning to go out, having a powerful personal pitch should be top of mind.
Here are my top five tips to crafting your personal MBA elevator pitch:
1. Get clear about your goals.
Broadly speaking, your branding should be consistent across your MBA application. Meanwhile, your personal elevator pitch must be responsive to the context. As you approach an event, like any interaction, know what you want to accomplish. Why are you attending and what do you want to get out of it? What are your goals? When it’s all over, what do you hope to take away (and leave behind)? Perhaps it’s first-hand insight on a certain academic offering or new contacts from alumni. Think customizable and consistent, not canned.
2. Understand your audience.
It’s important to know what business schools care about, in terms of the key attributes they’re seeking in a candidate—the ability to work on teams, leadership, analytical thinking and emotional intelligence, and among other qualities. A deeper awareness of the values championed by your target schools will allow you to make relevant connections to your personal passions, strengths and personal story. Authenticity is critical, so as you make these links within your pitch, stay true to your personal style and to yourself.
3. Be conversational and concise.
Aim to strike a conversational tone that’s not overly-rehearsed (which, ironically, takes practice). This means being able to tailor it to a situation, customizing it to be relevant to whom you’re speaking and where you are. Sprinkle in an interesting anecdote that might serve as a conversational segue, as the situation allows. For example, if you’re at a Haas event where Dean Lyons is speaking, you talk to an alum about Lyons’ talent for guitar or whether he’s expected to perform that evening. It’s also useful for opening a door into conversation about the school’s personality and vibe.
4. Presentation matters.
It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Present yourself with strong eye contact, a solid handshake and an energy of positively that expresses genuine interest in learning more. Your impression on others often has more to do with how you make people feel than what you actually say.
5. Inspire their interest.
Putting your MBA materials together requires a lot of reflection, and your personal elevator pitch is just one component of the brand you’ll want to present. As you frame your brand to a succinct statement, it’s helpful to think about the top three or so things you want to convey – about your ambitions and yourself. Remember that your objective is to both make a positive impression and inspire further conversation by generating interest, not to share your life story.
Once you’ve developed your pitch-perfect elevator statement, seek every opportunity to practice—with colleagues, friends and even yourself in the mirror. Ask for honest feedback from trusted sources. You’ll want to feel confident and ready to enter any scenario—from a networking session to an MBA interview to (hopefully!) your first day on campus in the school of your dreams.
Sharon Joyce is an Expert Coach at Fortuna Admissions and former Berkeley Haas Associate Director of Admissions.
A version of this article was originally published in Poets & Quants on October 5, 2017.