You’re in a networking meeting, or at a conference, or at a dinner party, and someone asks, “What do you do?” Whether you’re a recent college graduate or a seasoned executive, you’ll be ready to respond with an “elevator speech,” a quick and easy explanation of who you are, what you offer, and the benefits of what you do. This presentation usually lasts 30 to 60 seconds—about the same amount of time spent in an elevator ride.
For some of us, the thought of making an elevator pitch elicits fear and stress, not unlike the thoughts we associate with “root canal,” or “bungee jumping.” Often, the fear comes from lack of experience. But other times it’s because you may not know the true purpose of the pitch.
An elevator pitch will not, by itself, land your next job or close a business deal. But if it’s interesting and compelling, the conversation may continue afterwards, or lead to a business card exchange or a scheduled meeting.
How do we make an elevator speech compelling and memorable?
First, try to deliver the pitch without using your job title.
Your title does NOT tell people what you do, nor the benefits you provide, or the results someone gets from working with you. Also, the title may conjure up images that are far from what you actually do. Not every web designer, lawyer, professional organizer, or business coach is the same. You have to paint the picture of what the experience of working with you is like.
How do you paint your unique picture? Here are some techniques I use:
- Tell a story. A productivity coach might say, “I just finished a time management project with a client who has not been able to attend his son’s soccer game in the last two seasons. We worked very hard to revamp his thinking and lifestyle habits around time management. Since then, he has attended most of his son’s soccer games this season.”
- Use a simile – a comparison that uses “like” or “as” to explain what you do: This same productivity coach might say, “I’m like a personal trainer for the disorganized brain.”
- Compare yourself to someone famous or memorable, or even a cross between two people. This productivity coach might say, “I am like a cross between Rachael Ray and Sandra Day O’Connor.” Rachael Ray is warm, funny and sassy; and Sandra Day O’Connor is an extremely intelligent woman, having served as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. This coach has spunk and smarts!
Here are some examples of elevator speeches that take the form of stories and comparisons:
A marketing generalist says: “I like to shine from behind the scenes. I am an office support professional with experience managing marketing programs and initiatives for the manufactured consumer products industry. Being a people person, I enjoy being hands-on in getting to know what the customer wants/needs and then working within company guidelines to make it happen. If you have the time, I’d be thrilled to share more about my background.”
A commercial real estate broker with a broad-based business might give a specific example of a project: “I was called in four months before the grand opening of the Ritz Carleton in Boston to transition it from construction project to operating hotel. While four months is not usually enough time for this type of project, I hired and trained the staff, wrote the operating manuals on what to say and how to dress, and made sure that the hotel, theater, and retail space systems all worked together smoothly. The hotel opened on time.
A human resources professional might talk about her best project: “When I joined as an HR manager they were losing engineers and having trouble attracting engineering talent fast enough to keep their teams productive. I implemented a series of recruiting strategies, like having our executives give talks at premier engineering colleges and conducting informal referral get-togethers. As a result we were able to attract and hire top engineers that helped to grow our business by 60%.”
A financial advisor might simply say: “I do all the things other advisors forget to do.”
A consultant might say: “I’m like an old-fashioned country doctor. I treat all of my clients as friends that I will see about town and be invited to their homes for dinner. When I treat my clients like that, I find it very natural to do what’s right for them instead of me.”
What ideas do you have for a creative elevator speech? I’d love to see them, or help you craft one that’s as compelling and memorable as you are. Please get in touch with me! You can email Georgia Whitney at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at (585) 410-4370.