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"Elevator Pitch"

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Probably like most others, I've been advised to prepare an elevator pitch about my research. 

I'm curious to hear how others have prepared their pitches for interviews. For instance, should I mention my primary research questions within the elevator pitch or should I wait for a follow-up question? Should I mention what primary scholarship I'll be working with and through now or (again) wait for a relevant question?

Any thoughts/input would be helpful!

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First of all, you're going to be asked this (and ask others) a LOT. Unless this is for an interview (in which case I assume they want more information)... my general rule about elevator pitches is to make it as short and coherent as possible. Generally, in academia, "what are you interests/what do you study/etc" is a similar question to how others might ask someone new, "what do you do for work?" i.e. the ideal answer is, "Oh, I teach fourth grade at X Elementary," not a five-minute speech about your teaching philosophy. If someone is interested in it, they'll ask follow-up questions. Especially as you start, no one is expecting you to have a fully coherent idea of your research, so something like, "I'm interested in using queer theory to read early Puritan capture narratives" is probably enough!


Of course, if this is in a conversation where someone (a potential future advisor, etc) asks: "tell me about your project," then have something a bit more thorough. I'd still try to keep it fairly short, though-- you would rather have someone ask you questions than get bored!

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Yes, you need to have a bit, no more than ten or fifteen seconds in length, that you can rehearse. You're essentially giving your initial identifying markers, not delivering an oration. Keep it short and simple and completely void of BS. That means do not cite who you've read or how they're influenced you. And no BS-y jargon (for the love of Christ, do not use "material" just because you want to sound smart). You need to remember that these are informal events and you want to come off as a real person, not a grad student robot. 

When it comes to speaking with potential advisors, I agree with @urbanfarmer that short and direct is still the way to go. Treat your talk as a genuine conversation, not a performance. That means leaving room for questions, and moments where you can ask questions of the POI in turn. In my experience, early in graduate school professors are far more interested in your ability to ask interesting, penetrating questions than they are in your ability to have all answers ready at hand. 

Edited by Ramus
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