• Who are you?
  • Why are you here?

No, you are not in the wrong course:  this is not Philosophy (philos = platonic love + soph = wisdom:  sophomore (sopho + mor:  mor = dull (moron) 101.

What if the CEO toured your office, came to your desk, and asked you “what do you do here?”  How would you answer?

What if a prospective client asked you, “what does your company do?”  What would you tell him?

What if you found yourself in a chance meeting, say in an elevator, with a decision maker and you had his undivided attention for 45 seconds to one minute, the typical length of an elevator ride, what would you do?   What would you say?  What result would you hope for?

Elevator Pitch Featured Blog Image

An elevator (e+lev (light in weight)+or: lever, leverage, levitate) speech is a short marketing tool used to quickly and simply define a profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.  The name “elevator speech” reflects (re + flect (bend):  inflect, deflect, genuflect (“on bent knee”)) the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.  The term itself comes from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator. If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, the conversation will continue after the elevator ride or end in exchange of business cards or a scheduled meeting.

A variety of people (including project managers, salespeople, job seekers, policy-makers, and movers and shakers) commonly rehearse and use elevator pitches to get their point across quickly.

Elevator speech Do’s:

  • Make your Elevator Speech sound effortless, conversational, and natural.
  • Make it memorable and sincere. Open a window to your personality.
  • Write and rewrite your speech, sharpening its focus and eliminating unnecessary words and awkward constructions.
  • Include a compelling “hook,” an intriguing aspect that will engage the listener, prompt him or her to ask questions, and keep the conversation going.
  • Practice your speech. Experts disagree about whether you should memorize it, but you should know your speech well enough so you express your key points without sounding as though the speech was memorized. Let it become an organic part of you. Experts suggest practicing in front of mirrors and role-playing with friends.
  • Project your passion for what you do.
  • Focus on how you can benefit listeners and help them solve their problems. Remember as you deliver your Elevator Speech that the listener may be mentally asking, “What’s in it for me (or my company)?” Suggests that your benefits include how you can save an employer time and money, help people feel good, solve problems, or expand markets.
  • Use action verbs to paint vivid word pictures.
  • End with an action request, such as asking for a business card or interview appointment.
  • Update your speech as your situation changes.

Remember your audience.  This course is also a course in presentation, and the number one rule of making presentations is REMEMBER YOUR AUDIENCE (aud, audi, audio = hear, listen:  auditorium).  A corollary (co = together) of rule number one is that you should prepare and make several different Elevator Speeches for each of your different audiences:  professional, company’s potential clients, social, personal, employers….

Elevator Speech Don’ts:

  • Miss out during networking opportunities by not having a well-honed elevator speech.
  • Make an Elevator Speech that will leave the listener mentally asking “So what?”
  • Forget to include your competitive advantage also known as your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) in other words. how you can perform better than anyone else.
  • Let your speech sound canned or stilted.
  • Ramble. (See Ted Kennedy’s response to “why do you want to be president?” below)  Familiarize yourself with your speech, audience, and objectives to keep yourself on track.
  • Rush through the speech.  Pause briefly between sentences. Breathe.  Take it slowly.
  • Get bogged down with industry jargon or acronyms (acro (high) + nym (name):  acropolis (polis = city), synonym (syn = together, same), antonym (ant, anti = opposite) that your listener may not comprehend.
  • Focus just on yourself, an approach that will almost assure a “so what?” reaction.

Here are some infamous fails:

Roger Mudd to Ted Kennedy:  Why do you want to be president?

Dan Quayle at the 1988 Vice-Presidential debates:  What would you do if the president became incapacitated?

I think we’d all say a little prayer.

Finally in a historic textbook fail, here’s Dan Quayle at the same Vice-Presidential debate failing to anticipate: