We refer to a 10-15 second summary of where we work or what we do as an "elevator pitch" because a classic setting for sharing this type of information is on an elevator ride with strangers. The pitch is very much like delivering a live advertisement. You have very limited time, so you need to make every word count.
The first rule of the great elevator pitch: Do NOT try to choose the right words in the moment. Doing so will leave you stammering "like," "well, "um," "it's kind of hard to explain‚" "it's sort of." Would you ever do business with someone who can't immediately and without hesitation articulate what it is they do or what their company does? In developing your elevator pitch, choose your language very deliberately and carefully. Practice the exact words ahead of time and then share them with conviction.
Keep in mind that we don't choose whether or not we want to deliver an elevator pitch - it's about making the most of the opportunity when it happens. Once someone asks, "what do you do?" or "who are you with?" a process has been set in motion. You really have no choice but to respond (and why wouldn't you want to?). The choice you do have is how you respond. You can deliver an embarrassingly bad or inarticulate ad, a completely unmemorable ad, or a terrific, high impact ad.
By no means does your elevator pitch come into play only in the elevator. Think about the many and varied situations in which you share information about your job, career or place of employment. This information gets shared on the sidelines at little league baseball games, in line at the grocery store, at family reunions and everywhere in between. Every time you talk about your professional life, you are delivering some variation of your elevator pitch. Don't underestimate its importance; this is your 15 seconds to sell your company and your personal brand. Be sure to make the most of it. Every word. Every time.