What is your research about? Can you answer that question in one sentence? Three sentences? One minute? That’s your elevator pitch. Having a short description of your research ready at any time is useful to prepare you for all kinds of conversations and discussions about your research.
This coffee break, work on your elevator pitch
If you can readily and quickly tell someone what you’re working on, that isn’t just useful for the rare situations where you only have a brief elevator ride to tell someone else about your research. It will also help you when you’re writing papers, working on a thesis, or preparing a talk. By being able to explicitly state what you’re working on, or what the goal of your research is, you’ve created an anchor for all your future work.
To help prepare you for different situations, it can be useful to write a one-sentence summary of your research, a slightly longer three-sentence summary, and a one-minute talk. (Tip: start with the longest one, and then figure out what the necessary information is to boil it down to a single sentence.)
You don’t yet know who you’re going to be talking to in the future, so a useful elevatir pitch will be understandable for many different audiences – including people who don’t work in your field. If you do end up talking to a specialist like yourself, you can always add more details based on your shared expertise.
What have you learned?
You might have noticed that this will take you longer than one coffee break. It can be difficult to sum up the most important aspects of your work and the main reason you’re doing it all in one short message. But that’s exactly why it’s worth preparing. If it’s difficult now, when you’re on your own with several minutes to spare, imagine how much harder it is to get it right when you’re suddenly in a situation where someone asks you what you’re working on.
- The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) shares some example sentences to show how you can craft an elevator pitch for an audience who don’t know much about your research area.
- The American Geophysical Union (AGU) has some more short tips for creating an elevator pitch.
- The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) has more information on how to deliver your elevator pitch after you’ve prepared it.