There are a lot of resources out there related to the elevator pitch.

The networking gurus all agree that when it comes to building meaningful relationships the key to success is being interested in the other person.

From that perspective, having an elevator pitch may sound silly. On the other hand, having good elevator questions you can pull out of your sleeve might be just what you need.

What are some good elevator questions? I would say, it depends. Are you talking to someone in your industry, to a potential client, or to a complete stranger? Where are you – in an actual elevator, on a plane, in the gym, or at a grocery store? Let’s assume you are in a networking event where people expect you to tell them your pitch. What questions you may ask instead?

Here are some tips:

  • At the core of the good elevator question lies CURIOSITY. What are you genuinely curious about when it comes to other people?
    I am interested in people stories, where they are coming from and where they are going, so I may ask, “What brought you here?” or “What would you like to get out of this event?”
  • You want to ask something that would be easy to answer and that shows your interest in another human being. Think of what you may have in common and ask something related to it.
    For example, if it’s an event for coaches, I may ask,“What do you enjoy most about coaching?”
  • Be yourself. If humor is natural to you, try and say something witty. If you are an analytical type, you can comment on something and ask for their opinion. I could ask, “I wonder if there is one thing that all of us have in common in this room; what do you think?”
  • Think of what you would want to be asked if you were the other person. Do this exercise next time you bump into someone. What is a question you’d like to be asked?
    One I’m thinking about is, “If you could pick a person from this room to work on something together, who and what would it be?”

After you ask a question, LISTEN. Don’t think of the questions you are going to ask next. Listen for what catches your attention as the person responds. Soak into the answer as well as into the way a person answers and reflect your impression back – for example, “Wow, I would never think of that.” Let it flow and have a conversation that is built on common interest.

The worst-case scenario is that you realize there is no common interest. And that’s also a valid lesson.

You may wonder, “What about me?” The only time to talk about you and to bring up your elevator pitch is when you see that they are curious about you. In that case they start asking you questions and you’ll have an opportunity to respond. But if they are not, there is no point in telling them about your business, ideas, world views, etc. They would probably be thinking, “Why is he telling me this? I really don’t care.” I’m sure you’ve been in their shoes before and know how it feels.

The foundation of networking is CURIOSITY.

So, maybe the best question of all to ask when you don’t know where to begin is “What are you curious about?”


Henrieta Riesco is a founder of Intentional Career. She is all about meaningful conversation to empower professionals on their career journey. After experiences of being a teacher and a corporate trainer in Slovakia, a customer advocate and a training consultant for 10+ years at Microsoft, she is comfortable with calling herself a Career Coach. You can follow Henrieta via Twitter, or via her blog.