Your Elevator Speech Revisited

(A business reporter recently asked for my comments on ‘Elevator Pitches’. I was happy to share my expertise and experience and a summary of our conversation follows. )

FYI – I did indicate that I preferred ‘Elevator Speech‘ to ‘Elevator Pitch’. ‘Pitch‘ sounds like you’re trying to sell something. No one likes to be sold to. ‘Speech’ sounds like you want to share some information. Even though the difference in connotation is subtle, it can impact the mindset of the person doing it.

What’s the Purpose?

The purpose of an Elevator Speech is to answer a stranger’s question ‘What do you do?” in an effective, efficient and engaging manner. It begins a short, focused dialog. It’s not a monologue. The purpose of that dialog is to begin to answer two important networking objective questions:

1.  Is this person someone I, or someone I know, can help?

2. Or, is this person, or someone he or she knows, who can help me?

They’re separate concepts and connected with an ‘or’, not an ‘and‘. ‘And’ implies that you can’t have one without the other. Not true for best-in-class network pros.

Here’s mine –  ‘I empower business leaders to reduce their pain when communicating with colleagues or customers by phone, in person, in writing or through presentations … the pain they experience and, often, the pain they cause others

Why is it effective? – short, simple, clear language, benefits-related, clever hook at end.

 How long should it be?

Short enough to be interesting and engaging. The best ones I’ve heard are 15 seconds or less. Mine is 12. You know you have a good one when the other person asks questions. Since they begin a dialog, you can share additional information in responding to those questions.

The whole initial networking conversation with strangers should be focused and efficient – less than five minutes. Any longer and you keep them from meeting other people and visa versa. If you’re interested enough to continue the conversation, suggest a follow-up phone call or coffee chat.

 What should it include?   

An effective one is interesting, clever without being cute or confusing, benefit-related, not a long list of features – what the person does or sells, free from jargon or buzz terms so your neighbor’s 12 year old son would understand everything you say and easy to repeat.

  • Modify it to increase interest of the person listening, so try to initiate the conversation. Then, you can adapt yours as needed.
  • Don’t mix selling with networking – very different processes. So, don’t end with ‘Is that something you might need?’ or ‘Can you refer me to someone who might be interested?’ Lame and not likely to produce results except turning other people off.
  • Also create similarly focused answers to the typical follow up questions other people may ask, like ‘How do you do that?’, ‘Who is your target market?’, ‘Where are you located?‘, ‘How long have you done that?’, etc.
  • If you finish yours and the other people don’t immediately ask you some questions, don’t automatically assume lack of interest. They might be analyzing what you said, taking a long time to think of something else to say or having way too much fun talking about their favorite subject – themselves. They didn’t realize it was your turn.
  • Be spontaneous, but focused. Make every word count without sounding like you memorized it. Write it for the ‘ear’ not the ‘eye’ as people are only going to hear it.

Keep working on your Elevator Speech and finding ways to make it and the whole process more effective, efficient and engaging. You’ll really stand out in the crowd of amateur networkers when you do.