With a career fair and lots of great employer events coming up this semester, now is a great time to hone your elevator pitch. If an elevator pitch seems intimidating, it’s helpful to think of it as less of a “pitch” and more of an introduction. It’s a great tool to help you effectively foster connections at networking events and create new connections online. If you’re stuck on what you should include in your pitch, here is an exercise to give you some ideas.

I find it helpful to think about yourself, past, present and future when sharing information. Take some time to write out your answers to the questions below. 

Past
 — Where did you grow up? Did this have any impact on what you’re choosing to pursue in your studies or career?
 — What were your interests and have they changed?
 — If you’re a graduate student, what did you study previously?
 — What have you worked on professionally or on the side?
 — What is relevant to your current pursuits?

Present
 — Why are you at UVA?
 — What are you focusing on?
 — What are your values?
 — What are your passions?
 — What are your strengths?

Future
 — Where do you see yourself after school?
 — What are your personal goals?
 — What are your professional goals?
 — What are you hoping to gain from this interaction?

Once you’ve answered the questions above, take a step back and see the various ways you can summarize the information you’ve written out in a concise way. Your goal is not to share the answers of all of the questions above, but rather to use these questions to hone in on what is most relevant and interesting to share.

What are the main areas you want to touch on? Make a mental note of what you want to cover by picturing them as bullet points rather than the exact wording you want to say. Practice out loud with a friend, but remember the goal is not to say the exact same thing each time. A pitch is an invitation to a conversation, not a script. 

Your pitch will likely be different for different interactions. For example, your goal might be to learn more about a particular role at a company at one event, or simply to leave with a business card at another. The context you’re in can change how your pitch looks too. A large crowded career fair might call for a shorter version than a more intimate gathering. 

Above all, keep it natural and don’t deliver a memorized pitch. It might seem like a silly reminder, but nerves can make us forget that recruiters are simply people too, and they’re just looking to get to know you. So, make sure to smile, take a deep breath, and act as natural as you can. No one likes to feel like they’re being read a script. 

Finally, remember what we mentioned in the beginning—the pitch is just the introduction. Don’t forget to keep the momentum going by following up with your connections after the event!