CST BLOG: Lab Expectations

The official blog of Cell Signaling Technology (CST) where we discuss what to expect from your time at the bench, share tips, tricks, and information.

How to Perfect Your Elevator Pitch

Read More
All Posts

Networking and self-promotion are essential parts of any scientist's career, and while many might find them daunting, there are tricks and skills you can learn to help make the networking process a little easier.1 One of the most important parts of networking is the so-called ‘elevator pitch’ —a short summary of your research project or skills that is easy for a general scientific audience to understand. This post will share tips on how to craft an effective elevator pitch and adapt it for networking in an increasingly online world.

Why make an elevator pitch?

Getting the most out of networking opportunitieswhether you are looking for a new job or trying to find opportunities for research collaboration or fundingis much easier when you are prepared. In general, there are two types of elevator pitches you should be prepared to give at any timeone about yourself as a researcher and your areas of expertise and skills, and one about your current research project. Having a pitch up your sleeve, ready to go, can help transform an encounter at a conference into a fruitful and lasting connection.       

23-FLE-75707 Elevator Pitch Blog-feature-image-1200x600  When meeting someone for the first time, establishing relative expertise and scientific backgrounds can help smooth communication and avoid confusion throughout the conversation. Crafting a few pre-prepared sentences to present both your work and skills as a researcher can increase your composure and professionalism, ease nerves, and help to improve how effectively you communicate.

 

Making a Pitch Effective 

An effective pitch is essentially a calling card for you and your research. Like a career statement, the idea of the pitch is to capture the audience’s attention and make them want to discuss topics further with you.2

Typically, an elevator pitch should be about one to two minutes—long enough to provide the high-level, most exciting details of your research or your background as a scientist but short enough that you don’t lose your audience’s attention.

The key ingredients of a successful pitch are the same whether you are delivering a pitch online or in person: Be concise, clear, and sincere. Use the prompts in the remaining sections of this article to write down a few different versions of your elevator pitch, with consideration for the different scenarios in which it might be used.

It’s important to take the time to actually write down your pitch and to practice it out loud. This will help you to remember the key points, streamline your delivery, and reduce your nerves for when it’s go time!

 

Introducing Yourself

Once you have the opportunity to talk to someone, the first step is to introduce yourself. Let people know your name, where you are working, and your occupation. Giving some introductory information immediately gives your audience critical context. This is essential whether you are meeting for the first time or if you have met before; it can give your audience a good prompt. Not everyone has a good memory for faces and names, so don’t be discouraged if an individual doesn’t remember you.

 

Making a Connection

Elevator pitches can be useful in various scenarios, whether that be chance encounters or more formal presentations and pre-arranged meetings. Regardless of the format, it is important to be clear about why you want to talk to your particular audience. You might have some familiarity with their level of work, and you may have some idea of what you want to get out of the conversation. The more time you have for pre-planning, the more opportunity you will have to figure out how to best tailor your pitch.

It is a well-recognized phenomenon that people enjoy talking about themselves, and showing interest in another scientist’s work is an excellent way to keep a conversation flowing.3 However, be careful not to come across as insincere—senior scientists/researchers in the field are frequently approached with flattery about their latest paper or work. Either be specific in your comments or get to your main point. The main point is why you want to discuss something with your audience in the first place, e.g., are you looking for a job, interested in a potential collaboration or funding opportunity, or do you want to know more about their work?

Throughout the conversation, don’t use too much jargon, and ensure your description isn’t too technical and detailed.4 Try to infer the level of comfort your audience has with your area of expertise or research project and adjust accordingly—do they work in your field, or is their core expertise in a different subject? It is important to demonstrate that you know your area, but not if it makes your audience feel left behind or confused. Making simple changes to your prepared pitch, such as explaining acronyms or refraining from unnecessary detail, can help ensure your audience stays engaged.        

Leaving room for questions is always positive in a conversation and a good way of gauging the audience’s interest.

The next step is to present your value. What are your skills? What could you potentially bring in the future?

If you’re pitching your research, you want to think about how to describe your work in an engaging and accessible way. Make your summary succinct—you want to leave room for the other person to ask questions about aspects of the project, and don’t feel you have to describe every little detail. You just want to give enough general information so that the other researchers can get a feeling for the kind of scientific problems you might be interested in or the types of methods you might use to give them a chance to make a connection to you.

Finally, you want to give the conversational ball to the other person—ask a question and provide them with the chance to talk about themselves. Hopefully, this evolves into a fruitful discussion, but if not, don’t get discouraged.

 

Keeping a Connection

Once you have made a connection, it is essential to maintain it by clarifying what the next steps are, and it is ideal if you can memorably close the conversation by talking about an "action step" like stating you will send them an email to follow up and connect later. It is best to choose an action that leaves you in the driver's seat rather than waiting for the other person.

Below is an example of how to curate a compelling pitch.

Introduction

Hi, my name is Jane Doe. I'm a postdoc at Prestigious Institution. Nice to meet you.

Establish a link

I'm working in the field of Exciting Science, and I read one of your papers yesterday—I thought the series of experiments you did to prove X was impressive. Have you, or are you considering looking at Y?

Explain your intention

I am interested in using a similar set of experiments to answer question Z. Would you or your lab be open to collaborating on this project?

A discussion

[...]

Exchanging info and following up

Thanks so much. I'll email you a copy of my recent paper and some potential meeting times to discuss further. I look forward to speaking with you again very soon.

 

Exploring Online Opportunities

The internet and social media have opened up a new world of networking opportunities for scientists, and the pandemic has spurred a change in the availability of online meetings and interviews.5 For a "cold" approach online for someone you have not met, it is even more critical that your delivery is pitch-perfect. Whether you are pitching over a live Zoom call, via social media message, or a direct message, you must be able to capture the audience’s attention.

Online conferences offer many networking opportunities but need the same level of attention and preparation as in-person meetings.6 If you are speaking with other participants over video conferencing software like Zoom, think carefully about how you communicate.7 Make sure you pause to give the other person the opportunity to respond, and make sure to account for lags in connections that may affect the cadence of the conversation. It is also important to be familiar with the technology you are using so that, on your side, you can try to help get things back on track if technical difficulties occur.

 

Putting It All Together

Just like your resume or CV, having a fresh, up-to-date elevator pitch on hand can turn an unexpected encounter into a valuable opportunity. Being calm, collected, and controlled in your pitch will help you make a good impression, and using the right level of language is an excellent way of showing awareness and consideration for your audience. Remember not to worry about trying to look smart in front of your audience—your interaction will be more memorable if you focus on communicating yourself and your work clearly and confidently.

Remember to enjoy this opportunity to speak with your audience. You will likely be meeting people who are experts in your field or share the same interests as you. Feel free to let that enthusiasm and interest show, and you will soon find that the pitch becomes an engaging conversation.

 

Select References 

  1. Pain, E. How to network effectively. Science. October 27, 2015.
  2. How can you make your application stand out? Imperial College Business School. January 8, 2023.
  3. Ward, AF. The Neuroscience of Everyone's Favourite Topic. Scientific American. July 16, 2013.
  4. Pamplona, F. Science communication: Everything you need to know about it to thriveeditage insights. May 20,2022. Accessed August 2023.
  5. Valenti, A. Fortuna, G. Barillari, C. Cannone, E. Boccuni, V. Lavicoli, S. The future of scientific conferences in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic: Critical analysis and future perspectivesIndustrial Health. 2021;59:334-339.
  6. 10 Top tips for attending a virtual conference. Scientifica.
  7. Daley, K. How to communicate effectively over ZoomLedding Group. September 15, 2021.

23-fle-75707

Alexandra Foley
Alexandra Foley
Alexandra is a scientific marketing writer at CST and the editor of the Lab Expectations blog.

Related Posts

The Peer Review Process: What Is It, and How to Suggest Reviewers

Peer review is the independent assessment of a manuscript by experts in related academic fields. It is de...
Kenneth Buck, PhD Apr 10, 2024

Characterizing the Autophagic-Lysosomal Pathway in Parkinson’s Disease

We’re proud to partner with The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) to move Parkins...

Employee-Directed Global Giving Provides $150K for Humanitarian Causes

At Cell Signaling Technology (CST), our philosophy of giving and supporting those in need is at the heart...
Krystyna Hincman Mar 20, 2024