8 February 2016,

Your elevator speech: How to effectively use it


Having an elevator speech is just a start. Knowing when and how to use it is really what will make you stand above your competition.

By Curtis Kitchen, NAA Director of Publications and Trade Show

You probably can’t remember the first time you stepped into an elevator. Chances are, however, that you were young and entranced by the huge amount of buttons you could push.

You even may have had a specific button in mind – the button that would deliver you where you were supposed to go. But … all those buttons! Your mind sped up, and your hand did, too. It reached out and before you could stop, every single button lit up! It seemed pretty awesome at the time, but the actual result was a long, slow, boring ride to your final destination.

If you don’t know when or how to use an elevator speech effectively, that long, slow, boring ride is exactly how you’re coming across to people you meet. They don’t want to be on the elevator with you. They would rather take the stairs.

That thought’s not good for business. Let’s not think it.

Instead, remember what the purpose of an elevator speech is, which is to provide someone with your name, your company and a nugget or two of information that will both pique interest and strike enough of a chord that they will remember you later when you follow up with them.

Also remember what an elevator speech is not: It is not a full-on product sales pitch. It is an introduction to your company; an opportunity to share how what you do would be a good fit or asset to the person with whom you’re speaking.

So, how do you make sure you only push the right button? You have to Plan; Use control; Slow down; and, Have a single close to make sure your message is delivered as intended.

PUSH your elevator speech

Plan. The fatal mistake that many business people make is to believe that because an elevator speech is quick and seemingly under impromptu pretenses, it doesn’t need to be thought out or planned. That’s dead wrong.

Even if the presentation is only 30 seconds or a minute, it is still a presentation. It needs a solid message throughout – something that can’t happen if you haven’t thought things through or practiced.

Use control. What you’ll realize as we go along here is that discipline is a central theme. You have to use control over your natural instinct to vomit as much information as possible because of that clock burning time in your head. You also need to use control over your hand movements, voice level, and making sure you are engaged in the conversation effectively through eye contact and body direction (turned toward the person, standing confidently, etc.).

Remember, the sole purpose of your elevator speech is to make a connection and sell the person on believing you’re someone they should know. Present yourself as such.

Slow down. Again, it’s a control thing, but this is specifically about your speech. When we feel rushed, we talk faster (which would seem okay for an auction professional in most cases!). Here, however, words jumble and messages crumble.

The easiest cure for slowing down, other than focusing on control? Focus on that planned piece of information you have. Concentrate on speaking about that one point. Knowing you don’t have 10 other things to talk about will help you relax and easily deliver your core message. Once that point is made in a matter of a few moments, then it’s time to hit the homestretch.

Have a single close. Okay, so you’ve planned and perfected your quick introduction, and you’ve mastered your main point so that you deliver it clearly. Now, it’s time to put a big bow on things. Deliver a super action step for a close.

There are appropriate actions depending on your goal. Would you like to give the person a call for an appointment? Perhaps, you like to send them some information about something specific you discussed or simply get them on your general mailing list? It might just be leaving them a card with instructions on how to reach you.

The important factor here is to pick a single action. It’s neat and clean, and doesn’t leave the conversation hanging open awkwardly. Both parties know where things stand and what the expectation is moving forward.

Don’t go at it alone

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “never memorize what you can look up.” When it comes to an elevator speech, you want to have your own thoughts and words in order, but it also doesn’t hurt to have a little help in PUSHing your message.

Carrying a small card (like the one shown at the top of this page) that contains a couple of major points with you isn’t bad at all – in fact, it may actually illustrate how organized you are if you’re able to provide someone with information instead of only talking.

However, you won’t want to stare at the card and read it word for word, just as you won’t want the card to do all the talking for you. You’re still selling you and your company, not just the card’s information. Work that information into your speech, delivery it effectively, and you’ll be headed in the right direction.