When the term first became popular, it typically referred to a 30-second speech, the approximate time spent in an elevator with someone. The analogy inspired people to create 30-second presentations, sometimes intriguing yet way too often sounding pre-recorded and boring. You don’t want your elevator speech to make people run to another elevator to get away from you.
Planning your words ahead of time helps overcome some of the fear in talking to people you don’t know. You also need flexibility because of the varying situations you find yourself talking to someone: a business development opportunity, a potential career move, new friendships, to list a few possibilities.
Elevator speeches range from a few seconds to perhaps three minutes depending on the situation. The shortest ones could serve as a quick response to a question about what you do; the longer ones, perhaps requests to describe your work to a group of people in a somewhat more formal setting.
A word about the shorter ones, you can capture someone’s attention by adding some intrigue in responding to a question about what you do. An international trade attorney might say, “bridge builder” rather than “I am a lawyer.” A soon-to-graduate student might say, “life adventurer.” You would likely get asked what that means and respond about your excitement in starting a career. By the way, some situations do call for a straightforward response without adding anything. You should try to think strategically about your situation.
Plan your elevator speeches using three goals focused on your listener’s reaction. It’s all about the listener, not you.
- Their first reaction (attention grabber, appearance, posture, voice)
- Content appeal (succinct, organized, building)
- Want to hear more (Did you make that connection?)
Your elevator speech should engage people, stimulating their interest in learning more about you. Strategically plan that important first interaction to ensure the first impression you make doesn’t become the last one!
Fred Siegman, a personal branding consultant and strategic relationship development expert, helps corporate and individual clients create opportunities for reputation building, career advancement and business development. (www.scschicago.com)