Quick: You have a potential investor's attention while he waits for his cab, or you meet someone at a dinner party who works for your dream employer. Convincing this person in less than 30 seconds that you have a brilliant, profitable idea or are the smart, capable person they need to help their company grow is a tall order. But we know you have it in you—once you follow these six simple steps, that is.

1. THINK ABOUT YOUR GOAL.

No matter how fabulous your elevator pitch, you're not going to be offered the investment or job opportunity on the spot, says Chris O’Leary, author of Elevator Pitch Essentials. “That’s not possible,” he says. “Instead, your goal is to just get a conversation started.” You want to make a connection, pass along a business card, and get them to agree to chat again about the next step.

2. FOCUS ON YOUR OPENING STATEMENT.

This is key, says Catherine MacDermott, professor of Business Communication at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. If you're pitching yourself in a job interview, don’t bother introducing yourself with your title. Instead, try presenting your role in a light that really shows how you’re helping your company—and how you’d benefit theirs. "For example, instead of saying, 'Hi, I am Jane Smith, and I am a college tutor,' why not say something like, 'I'm Jane Smith and I help students succeed,'" MacDermott says.

3. SOLIDIFY YOUR CONNECTION.

James O’Rourke, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame, says you want to find common ground with the person you're pitching. When you introduce yourself, explain how you know them—is yours a family, university, or business connection?

4. MAKE CLEAR WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR...

Once you give your descriptive introduction, “Then, make the transition into what’s next, what you’re looking for long-term," says O'Rourke. But your aspiration has to connect with your qualifications and the steps you're taking to get there, whether that be finishing up your master’s degree in science at night or seeking your MBA.

5. ... AND WHAT YOU NEED FROM THEM.

The best you can get from this first conversation is an agreement to continue the conversation—either with this person or someone more appropriate. So before you part ways, ask if you can get another, longer meeting on the calendar or if they can put you in touch with someone else. O'Rourke suggests saying something like, "I'm looking to make the next step, seeking contact in the world of [finance, education, publishing—whatever it is], and I’m hoping you might help me head in this direction."

6. LEAVE YOUR BUSINESS CARD.

If they decline to help, ask if you can simply leave your business card. Which, by the way, you should have handy. You never know when you’ll be making your next elevator pitch, so it should be in your suit pocket, purse, or another container that's readily available, O’Rourke says.