The Elevator Speech

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We live in a fast-pace world and usually are given no longer than 30-60 seconds to catch and hold the attention of someone who has the power to make a difference in our life. Whether you are talking to potential employers about job opportunities, proposing a new idea to your CEO or you are a CEO presenting what your company can do for a new client – you need to be able to communicate your points in a concise and attractive manner that sparks interest to take further action.  Basically, you need to have an elevator speech.

Study results vary on how long it takes to make the first impression, most agree that in the first 7 seconds after we meet someone the first impression is made already. To use this time wisely and make the most of every opportunity that comes our way, we need to get 100% clear on the following:

  • Who we are,
  • What exactly we are proposing,
  • Why they should care,
  • What action we want them to take
  • How we deliver

Here are a few pointers to help with the preparation.

 Who are you? This one seems as the simplest question of all, but is it an easy one to nail?  What comes to mind is the smug face of Dr. Buddy Rydell from Anger Management (played by Jack Nicholson) as he keeps pushing Adam Sandler’s character to tell about himself: “Don’t tell us what you do, tell us who you are”. In reality, there is truth to these words. Simply introducing yourself by what you do for a living, doesn’t work in the elevator speech. If your speech sounds like it’s all about you, there is always a risk of explicitly or implicitly getting a response like “good for you”.  When you are explaining who are you make sure to present it from the point of view who you are being to the listener. Know your audience and mention a few of your skills and character traits relevant to their business.

What do you do?  Describe what you do and be crystal clear on it. Often people share with me that they describe at networking events what they do for a living but don’t see enough interest or, at times, not even enough understanding of their line of work. The best piece of advice I got from a life coach in this regard is – to spark interest in what you do always start off by describing a currently existing problem, a so called customer pain and then link back to what you have to offer. Here is an example of how I take this advice: if you say “I train people on making presentations”, it does not mean much to your audience. Many, in fact, might be convinced that they already know how to make presentations and the last thing they need is someone training on them on this skill. What if instead you said something like: “Have you ever been bored at a presentation where a speaker heavily relies on the slides or even reads along? I teach people how to keep the audience engaged and focused by using stimulating visual aids to support their business ideas and to inspire action”.

Why is it important?  Anyone who hears your elevator speech always inevitably thinks in the back of their mind what’s in it for them. No matter how great your offer is – people need to know what value it will bring them and how it will advance their business. Your offer not only should sound as a tangible solution to their “pain” but also stand out among other options that may be available to them. Through relevant examples of past solved problems and possibly some valuable statistics in your favor, demonstrate how your offer will become the best solution for them. This does not mean trying to impress through name dropping but rather pointing out how you helped others to overcome similar challenges. Your elevator speech presents your unique selling proposition – so your goal is to show what is in fact unique about your offer and why it works so well.

Taking action:  The elevator speech is not the place to provide too much detail – it’s more of an ice-breaker that opens opportunity for future dialogue and most importantly, further action. Make sure it is clear from your speech what you need the other party to do in regards to your proposal, idea or product. Whatever action you expect from your prospect make it easy for them to take that next step. Showing successful relevant experiences from before will add to your credibility. Trust brings them that much closer to taking action.

Delivery: Now that you are clear on all of the above points, it’s time to plan the delivery of the message.  How you say it is just as important as what you say. For the message to sound attractive, delivery needs to be crisp and purposeful. I have been criticized early on in my career on lacking directness in communication – many simply don’t have the time to listen to anything wishy-washy. Speaking too fast is another thing I have been guilty of – what it does to your speech, it makes it sound unnatural. (Even though in my particular case speaking fast in any of the  languages that I know, comes naturally to me). Just like with many other things practice helps setting perfect pace. For the effective elevator speech it’s very important for your natural passion to come out.  So I can’t emphasize enough the power of genuine smile, upbeat tone and positivity.

In my opinion, elevator speech is something we all need to fit in with everyone else who has one and at the same time to stand out among everyone else who has one. You never know when the next opportunity will come where you could perfectly use it. So are you ready with yours? Have you heard examples of great elevator speeches that inspire you?

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  1. In my early twenties I used to speak too fast. And as a result of it a couple of times badly failed my elevator speeches.
    Thank you very much, Natella for such an educational post.

  2. I would hate to be in a position where I found myself face to face with a Decision Maker and was caught off guard with nothing prepared. That would be a real missed opportunity to promote myself. I really like your point about requesting action. It’s probably the one that gets easily overlooked but has the potential to yield the biggest returns.