Why You Can’t Afford to Leave the Elevator Speech at the Door

An elevator speech or pitch is typically 30-90 seconds long and sums up your skills, a product, or a company. The phrase originates from the idea of what you would say to a customer or client if you were riding in an elevator and were asked what you do. It can be used anytime and anywhere, and it prevents the stumbling awkwardness of an unprepared statement.

Sales people understand the power of the elevator speech and use it every day. While some use an elevator speech to gain employment and then forget about it for a while, the tool is far more than a one-time use tactic. When you think about it, every person and business stands to gain from the power of the elevator speech.

While an elevator speech is not an advertisement, it can relate understanding, highlight a memorable concept, and affect your first impression of an individual. To date, the elevator speech has been an easy way to introduce oneself at a networking function. Some marketers may believe the elevator speech is outdated. However, when it’s used properly, it can open the door to a more meaningful conversation.


When to Use an Elevator Speech

Have you ever been at a social outing and someone asks you where you work and what you do? Maybe your job involves highly technical work or your job description doesn’t even begin to cover what you do on a daily basis. By preparing a short explanation, you will always sound professional and polished, regardless of the setting.

The elevator speech is still relevant because it’s fast and gets to the point. You can use it almost anywhere from parties to work engagements or when you see a neighbor at a community event. The trick is to present it without coming across as salesy or rehearsed.

Developing an Elevator Speech

If you’re a manager or business owner, consider having everyone present their elevator speech at a meeting. The exercise will ensure an employee knows how to represent the company in any setting and help employees become comfortable with talking about their work.

Maybe you think this is unnecessary, but you would be surprised by how many people fly by the seat of their pants after they are hired. People who are not natural marketers or sales oriented can still impact your brand in a positive way, and ensuring their successful interactions helps everyone. It could even help a qualified employee secure a promotion. Encourage employees to work on short personal and professional elevator speeches.

A basic elevator speech should include a problem and a solution, qualifications, and a conversation starter. For example, a conversational elevator speech could be:

Our company provides a range of environmental engineering services to folks in the poultry industry. We help them follow regulations and improve their current architecture to support current and future goals. Right now we’re working with a poultry farm in [name of location]. What about you?

The pitch is mostly scripted, but allows the individual to insert current information to start a conversation. It’s to the point, but covers a wide range of responsibilities. Plus, it facilitates dialogue by asking a question.

In addition to reactive speeches, you may find yourself standing next to a stranger at a convention or trade show. If you don’t talk, you may miss out on a great networking opportunity. Try opening your pitch with an introduction. For this type of conversation, focus on one interesting sentence. You could say, “Hi, I’m Joe. I work with chickens.” The statement is vague, but intriguing. The other person almost has to ask a follow up question. Do you actually work with chickens?

Always write down your speech when you’re developing it. Unless you’re an elevator speech professional, writing something down is a proven memorization technique. Having the information prepared could prevent you from being caught off guard.

The Presentation

Sometimes, elevator speeches can seem too rehearsed. Remember to keep it short and interesting. Nobody likes to be on the other end of a tedious and dry speech. Encourage mentees and employees to change their speeches regularly. It’s always good to listen to others’ responses, pick out what works, and apply the concept to your own speech. Yours could be as short as a sentence or two.

How do you prevent yourself from freezing or becoming a robot when you get asked what you do? Once your speech is memorized, practice it over and over again. There are a few psychological tricks you can use to boost your confidence. Practice saying your elevator speech after using psychological exercises, and see if that makes a difference in your presentation. Most people have short attention spans when it comes to conversations. Your goal is to come across as confident.

One of the most effective exercises that can help you present a great elevator speech is known as power posing. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard professor and social psychologist, gave a TED Talk in 2012 about power poses. The video is ranked number 2 out of all the TED Talks presented to date.

You can watch the video here, but the idea is that anyone can take 2 minutes before a meeting, test, or other anxiety evoking event to literally stand with his hands on his hips or in another dominant position. After two minutes, the brain starts to change and it really does change the way individuals feel about themselves. The practice could help you feel empowered every time you give an elevator speech.

Even if you never use the exact pitch you write or practice, the exercise in developing one can help you start talking at networking events and other social outings. People can remember short pieces of information, making the elevator speech the best possible way to ensure you are remembered the next time you are presented the opportunity.

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Rachel Winstead

When she isn’t writing, Rachel spends as much time as she can outside hiking or working in the yard. Kayaking and paddleboarding are two of her favorite outdoor activities, and she’s looking forward to teaching her pit bull-mix, Sawyer, how to balance on a board. She routinely goes camping in the mountains of North Georgia with friends and her boyfriend, David.

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