Although there are countless books and websites discussing how to put together a high-quality “elevator pitch” — aka a 30-60 second message introducing yourself and your professional focus — many of these resources fail to mention that a great pitch needs to be flexible, not locked in stone.  Why is this the case?  Because unless you take the conversational context into consideration when delivering your pitch, your message can easily come across as formal, overly scripted, and wholly inappropriate.

For example, let’s say you’re at a business meeting or networking event where everybody in the room is asked to stand up and quickly introduce themselves.  In this situation, the “pure version” of your elevator pitch will likely do the trick, since you’re addressing the audience in an impersonal, one-to-many fashion where a certain degree of formality is expected.   In a more casual setting, however, such as a coffee meeting or cocktail party, this same message can make you sound like a robot, a horrendous bore, or the worst of both worlds — a horrendously boring robot.  If somebody sits down with you at Starbucks, in other words, and suddenly launches into their “I’m a seasoned executive with 20 years of experience…” speech, wouldn’t you, yourself, quickly be scrambling for the exit?  So in informal one-on-one settings, you’ll want to modify your pitch to be more casual, humorous, and spontaneous.  One size does not fit all when introducing yourself, no matter what you may read out there.

In fact, the more you get out there, the more you will encounter situations during your job search when the socially-acceptable thing to do is to actually seem reluctant to give your elevator pitch.  If you’re at a birthday party, for example, it would seem strange to be “working the room” telling everybody about your employment situation and job goals.  So instead, if people ask you what you do, simply describe yourself as a “Product Development Executive” or a “Financial Analyst” and don’t comment at all on whether you’re actually working at the moment.  Leave the question open and turn the conversation back to the other person using a statement like “And how about yourself?”  By NOT launching into a full pitch, or seeming overly eager or desperate to discuss your employment situation, you’ll usually end up drawing people deeper into conversation with you (which is what you ultimately want) and they will eventually ask you for further details about your situation, at which point they will likely offer to help — on their terms, however, not because they were coerced into doing so.

And as for those folks who never come back around to you, and your situation, once you’ve given them the opening to talk about themselves?  Cut ’em loose!  People who don’t practice the basic etiquette of “conversational reciprocation” are probably a lost cause and of little aid to your cause, no matter what you do or how you pitch yourself!