Love In an Elevator Speech

Any businessperson—whether running a home business or not—should have a so-called “elevator speech” tucked away in his/her back pocket (figuratively, not literally). An elevator speech is a short summary of your business and is essentially a sales pitch. The term derives from the scenario wherein you are riding an elevator and you have thirty to sixty seconds to answer the question, “So what do you do?”. We often give short shrift to the elevator speech (also called an elevator pitch) but it should be one of the first things you develop when you set up your business. In fact, it’s often the one thing that will sell you and your company to a potential client, and, like business cards, is something you should never leave the office without.

How do you write an effective elevator speech? Start by answering each of these questions.

  1. Who are you? “I am a ____________…”
  2. What do you do? “…who does ______________…”
  3. Who are your clients? “…for _________…”
  4. Why should someone hire you? “…because I can ______________. …”
  5. What do you want to happen next?  “I’d be happy to set up a time to discuss ______________…”
  6. How can you conclude with a catchy “hook”? “Don’t you wish you could ________? Don’t you wish there were someone who could help you with ____________?”
  7. Put it all together.

That’s half the battle right there. Now, here are six tips for presenting the elevator speech:

  1. Keep it short. It’s not an escalator or a five-story walk-up speech. The Delete key is your friend when you are crafting an elevator pitch. It should be short and punchy—lasting no longer than thirty or sixty seconds at the most. Remember, if you are talking with someone, they will ask follow-up questions if they’re interested, so there’s no need to cram every detail about your business into the speech.
  2. Avoid jargon and “corporate speak.” When we work in specific industries, we often use special terminology as a kind of shorthand when communicating with colleagues. Remember that someone outside your industry may have no idea what you’re talking about, so try to use plain language. Also, avoid corporatespeak words like “synergy,” “core competency,” and so forth. It should sound natural coming from you, not from a company press release.
  3. Practice it out loud and memorize it. Writing a speech and delivering it orally are two completely different things. What reads great on paper may sound stilted and unnatural when spoken. So make sure you practice it out loud before taking it on the road. And don’t be afraid to try it out on family, friends, or close colleagues. Be sure to listen carefully to feedback and advice. Also be sure to memorize it; you don’t want to be at a social event and have to read it off an index card.
  4. Be passionate. Conveying a passion and an enthusiasm for your business is a must. If you sound blasé, uninterested, or modest about your own business, how can you expect anyone else to be interested in it?
  5. Have several versions. Different audiences and venues require different approaches, and it’s vital to target your message appropriately. For example, if you are talking to a business reporter for your local paper you will want to pitch your business in a different way than if you are taking to a potential customer or an investor.
  6. Reciprocate. Give the person you are talking to the opportunity to give their own elevator speech.