This holiday season, you will undoubtedly find yourself in networking situations. Perhaps you’ll be networking at company holiday parties, chamber of commerce meetings, parent (school) events, job fairs or standing in line for coffee at Starbucks. Regardless of where you find yourself, be prepared to answer the age old question, “So, what do you do?”

The “elevator pitch” got its name from the concept that if you got into an elevator with a stranger and they turned to you and asked, “Tell me about yourself?” could you reply succinctly and with enough content that they would want to continue the discussion when the elevator doors opened. This assumes you have about a 30-second elevator ride.

Personal branding is the practice of building trust by creating and managing your reputation with intention and focus. As you build your visibility and your network, the perceptions other people have of you can directly impact the opportunities they assign you. As employers and prospective business contacts interact with you (in person and online), they are judging you based on what you say, how you act and how you look.

What to include in your elevator pitch

An elevator pitch has impact when it is relevant. Whether you are introducing yourself at a business event, cocktail party or at an interview with a potential employer, an elevator speech has impact when it is:

  • Authentic and genuine.
  • Relevant.
  • Descriptive.
  • Concise.

Believe it or not, a common mistake people make with elevator pitches is forgetting to say what their offer is – clearly. They also forget to say how they’re relevant to people who might want to hire them. Are you forgetting to tell the person who’s listening why they should care about you?

Use your elevator pitch to describe what you do, then describe how you do it. Do not repeat your job description, or the job title you want, or the number of years you’ve been in the job, unless it makes you unique. Focus on what is it you do differently than your competitors. If you have a niche, tell me about it. The goal is to entice the listener to want to know more.

The holidays bring unique opportunities

Most holiday networking involves frivolity, celebration, reminiscing and looking forward (to the New Year). Incorporate these attributes to your holiday elevator pitch:

  1. Share optimism for goals/objectives you have for 2013. Give examples of specific ideas you look forward to implementing, goals you will achieve and people you hope to meet.
  2. Give insight into your milestones in 2012 as they build credibility for your personal brand. Did you write that book you’d always wanted to start? Did you meet your favorite client this year? How did you contribute to making someone’s business grow?
  3. Share the success of others. Is your team working well? What are they doing right? Who (in the room) do you admire and why?

Be wary of holiday networking traps (i.e. flowing alcohol, out of control gossip, pent up resentments for workload) and use this season to highlight the benefits and offers you bring to the workplace.

From your behavior, to your verbal communications, to your online networking, pay attention to how you come across to others. Could your holiday messages send the wrong message to key influencers? Is your image consistent with your value proposition?

Beginning today, become more intentional and thoughtful about what you say and how you say it. Focus on being authentic and concise, sharing enough information to make your audience want to learn more. Show passion and excitement for your work (excitement is contagious!), and help put people at ease around you.