Your personal MBA elevator pitch is essentially your brand statement. It’s a concise and compelling conversation starter that expresses who you are, what you’re passionate about, and what’s driving you toward pursuing your business school degree. It’s essential in the context of networking events with students, alumni and faculty members, because you have about 20-60 seconds to make a great first impression (the time it takes to ride an elevator a few floors.) Done well, your elevator pitch opens the door to further conversation.
As you craft your pitch, the objective is a statement that’s short, goal oriented, and targeted to the audience you’re hoping to reach. I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of pitch statements—from my career in admissions and student affairs at Berkeley Haas and Carnegie Mellon Tepper to my coaching role at Fortuna Admissions. With MBA interview invitations circulating soon, having a powerful personal pitch should be front of mind.
Here are my top tips to developing your personal MBA elevator pitch:
1. Clarify your goals.
Your overall branding should be consistent across all aspects of your business school applications. At the same time, your personal elevator pitch should be responsive to your context. As you go into an event, know what you hope to get out of it. What is your goal? Why are you attending and what do you want to accomplish? When it’s over, what do you want to take away (and leave behind)? Perhaps it’s some new contacts from alumni, or first-hand insight on a certain academic offering. Think consistent and customizable, not canned.
2. Know your audience.
It’s important to understand the key attributes top business school are looking for—leadership, the ability to work on teams, emotional intelligence and analytical thinking, among others. A deeper awareness of what your target schools care about will also help you make important connections to your personal strengths, passions and unique story. Authenticity is key, so as you draw these connections within your pitch, stay true to yourself and your personal style.
3. Be concise and conversational.
Aim for a tone that’s conversational and not overly-rehearsed (although you do want to practice it!). This means being able to adapt it to the situation, tailoring it to be relevant to where you are and whom you’re speaking. Don’t be afraid to sprinkle in an interesting anecdote that could serve as a conversational segue. For example, if you’re at a Berkeley Haas event where Dean Lyons is speaking, you might approach an alum about Lyons’ ability to really slay it on a guitar or whether he’s expected to play that evening. It creates a nice segue into conversations about the school’s vibe and personality.
4. Don’t neglect presentation.
It’s not just what you say, but how you present yourself. You want to have a solid handshake, strong eye contact, and an attitude of positively that conveys genuine curiosity about learning more. The impression you leave behind will often have more to do with how you make people feel than what you actually say.
5. Leave them wanting more.
You should have done a lot of reflection while putting your MBA materials together, and your personal elevator pitch is just one component of the brand you’ll want to put forward. As you distill your brand to a succinct statement, consider the top three or so things you want to convey about yourself and your ambitions. Remember that your goal is to both create a positive impression and open the door to further conversation by generating interest, not to tell your life story.
Once you’ve crafted your pitch-perfect elevator statement, practice it at every opportunity—with friends, colleagues, even yourself in the mirror. Ask for candid feedback from people you trust. You’ll want to feel ready and confident to walk into any scenario—from a networking event to an MBA interview to (hopefully) your first day on campus in the program of your dreams.
Sharon is a director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Berkeley Haas Associate Director of Admissions. Fortuna is composed of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 12 of the top 15 business schools.