An “elevator speech” or “30-second pitch” is a networking tool used to introduce yourself. It is usually a 30-60 second overview of who you are and what you do (or want to do).

Although it may seem simple, the elevator speech is one of the most practiced and perfected networking techniques. Why? Imagine you are in an elevator and someone who may have the power to hire or help you jumps in before the doors close. Now you have his or her undivided attention. But, the elevator ride is short. What you say and how you say it is crucial.

For this reason, it is important to put together your elevator speech in advance. You don’t want to memorize your introduction, but you should know the main points you’d like to make. Practice your delivery. Your elevator speech can be used at career fairs, networking events, when calling potential employers or during an interview. Use it any time you are meeting new people and might only have a few moments to capture their attention.

A basic elevator speech for a soon-to-be Lawrence grad might sound like this:

“Hi. My name is Jane Smith. I will be graduating from Lawrence University this June with a degree in English. During my time at Lawrence I wrote a weekly column for our student newspaper. I’m looking to use my writing and communication skills to pursue an entry-level editing position.”

While effective, this pitch lacks a “hook”. Once you establish your basic elevator speech, look for creative ways to describe what you want to do in order to stand out. Instead of “I’m looking to go into teaching” you could say, “I’d like to be responsible for shaping the future of this country.” Instead of, “I’d like to be an editor” you could say “I enjoy agonizing over grammar rules and style guidelines.” A creative hook may make you feel corny, but now your listener is interested in knowing more. You’ve just become more memorable.

At some social events, your elevator speech may need to be longer or more conversational. Start with the basics, and add additional information about your skills, experiences, goals, etc. Don’t be afraid to make a request for action at the end of your pitch: What advice do you have for me? Can you suggest some employers I should be contacting? May I send you my resume to review?

Once you’ve developed an elevator speech, be sure to fine tune it as your interests and audience change.