Creating a Great Elevator Speech
An elevator speech is not a business speech in the traditional sense, you aren't standing in front of a crowded room delivering a speech with a computerised presentation looming high above your head. No, the elevator speech is usually delivered to just one person.
What is an Elevator SpeechThe idea is to imagine that you step into a lift somewhere, perhaps a hotel or an office building, with someone who then asks you what you do. You then have two floors, more if you are lucky, to answer the question, but in a way that will intrigue them and perhaps make them contact you about doing business together.
Of course this doesn't often happen in lifts in real life; in the UK in particular, we are known for being reticent to speak in lifts. But it's called the elevator speech to make business people think about compressing the message into a pithy and memorable speech. This should be able to be delivered in the time it takes to travel between floors. It can then be used at conferences, exhibitions and networking meetings when people do ask you what you do, and ask it a lot.
What's in an Elevator Speech?The other crucial point about an elevator speech is that you don’t actually answer the question: "What do you do?" Instead you answer the question: "What do you do for your customers?"
In other words you need to think about the benefits that you deliver to your customers, not what you actually do, day in, day out. Think about the products or services you offer and what benefits they deliver to customers. What is it that differentiates you, makes you special or different?
An Elevator Speech ExampleInternational speaker and business coach Roger Harrop talks about the elevator speech and often quotes the example of his own business. If someone asks him what he does, he could give many different answers. He is a professional keynote speaker, a business advisor, coach and mentor, and a non-executive director, helping businesses all over the world. But what he actually says is this: "I improve the profitable growth of businesses."
This does many things. It tells the listener exactly what Roger can do for that person's business. It intrigues them and makes them wonder exactly how this is done. And hopefully, when they leave the mythical elevator, thirty seconds later, they will do so with Roger's business card in their pocket.
How Can I Make My Own?Consider this the next time you are in a networking situation and how you can apply it to your business. Ask colleagues, friends or customers what it is that you achieve for them and write it all down. Then reword it to make it clear and brief, 30 seconds is an absolute maximum. Don’t use jargon or buzzwords, don’t be too modest, but then again don’t overdo it.
Once you think you've got it sussed, write it out and practise it again and again. You might think you don’t need to write it down, it's in your head. But if you don’t, it can morph over time and become something different. If it's written down you can check that you're getting it right and also revisit it once in a while to see if you can improve it. Once it's written down and memorised, test that it's clear and effective by trying it out on people that don't know your business.
Listen and RefineYou elevator speech will sound strange to you at first but keep the faith unit it sounds natural. And listen to other peoples' elevator speeches to get clues as to how you can improve yours.
A great one to finish on is this one dreamt up by a business consultant colleague the other day: Instead of saying he's a business consultant, he says: "I improve sales and reduce costs. Which one do you want to talk about first?"