Deconstructing the Elevator Speech

Created by Mary Tran

You've spent weeks, months, and maybe even years working on a research project. You know why this project is important and what your next steps will be, but are you prepared to explain all of that to the next person who asks you about your research? You should take some time now and create an elevator speech to pitch in these situations.

So what is an elevator speech?

In a research setting, an elevator speech introduces you as a researcher, your research questions, and the significance of your research. Because an elevator speech is short, typically 30 seconds to 2 minutes, it is a great way to introduce and share your research with others at formal networking events, academic conferences, casual conversations, or even during an actual elevator ride.

Ultimately, your elevator speech should provide a 'hook' and make your listener want to know more about your research!

Basic Components of an Elevator Speech

Below is a visual representation of the basic components of an elevator speech. Each 'floor' corresponds to a different part of the elevator speech.

You can click the elevator buttons and read more on what should be included in that particular section.

Check out some quick video examples below by clicking on the tabs:

Who - Introduce your name and identities as an academic and researcher.

What - Share your research topic and question.

Where - Explain where you are doing your research.

Why - Help people see the importance of your research.

Delivering an Elevator Speech

It's important to focus on your audience when delivering an elevator speech. For instance, if you're pitching your research project to a general audience, it's a good idea to define or leave out technical or disciplinary terminology. Similarly, be sure to define acronyms and use everyday examples or analogies to help your audience understand key concepts that may be unfamiliar to them.

Remember that in an elevator speech, it is important to keep it simple and to the point. State your research topic, report your findings, and convey the significance of your work.

It's a good idea to write out a draft first and read it out loud a few times to make sure it flows and is of appropriate length.

And most importantly, practice delivering your elevator speech a lot. This will help calm your nerves so you don't freeze up when you're about to share your research with others. To make your elevator speech not sound robotic, it's a good idea to memorize key points of your research rather than a full script.

And lastly, be enthusiastic. Recall what first sparked your interest in your research and be sure to convey that to your audience.

What's the difference between an elevator speech and an abstract?

Although both serve to present your research and its significance in a concise manner, elevator speeches and abstracts differ in format and purpose.

Elevator Speech
  • Typically lasting from 30 seconds to 2 minutes (length of an elevator ride)
  • Delivered orally
  • Purpose: introduce yourself as a researcher, your research project, and its significance so your audience will want to learn more about your research
  • Brief paragraph (often 150-300 words)
  • Presented in written form
  • Purpose: explain your research project and its significance in order to present at conferences, publish in journals, or apply for funding
  • Can also be used to apply for a research scholarship or fellowship

Note: If you've already written your abstract for your research paper, you can use it as a starting basis for your elevator speech. You can think of your elevator speech as a more condensed version of your abstract. Remember, the main purpose of the elevator speech is to engage your listeners so they're interested in learning about the details of your project.

Related Resources

About this tutorial


Mary Tran


Taylor Harper, Caitlin Meyer, Undergraduate Research Centers

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe the elements of an effective elevator speech
  • Sketch an elevator speech
  • Distinguish elevator speech from research abstract