Craft and Deliver an Elevator Speech That Wins
Imagine riding an elevator with a stranger who is an excellent lead or prospect for your business or who could be very helpful to you in your career. You want to give a brief and enticing introduction of yourself and the value of what you do professionally. When you are networking (and during many other business situations), you need to introduce yourself and your business in much the same way.
This is your “elevator speech”. In business conversations, you often have only a few moments to be compelling and entice your listener.
Create a script for your elevator speech, and become so familiar with it that you can speak it easily and with confidence. Write the speech the way you speak, not the way you write. If you have trouble writing a script that sounds like your natural speech, speak into a tape recorder, play it back, and write down what you hear. This is an excellent way to begin your writing and editing process.
In the same way that actors rehearse in order to look and sound spontaneous and authentic, you should rehearse your elevator speech strategically. “Winging it” is risky, because nervousness and outside factors can have a negative impact on what you say and how you say it. When you’re networking, winging it requires too much of your energy and can rob you of the ability to be fully present with your listeners.
Be concise! Shakespeare said “brevity is the soul of wit”. And every actor knows the old adage: “Leave ‘em wanting more.”
I help savvy (identify the individuals) ________ take advantage of __________ by showing them how to (list the benefits).
I work with (identify your target markets or individuals) who want to (identify the benefits you offer).
The objective of your elevator speech is to entice the listener to engage in discussion with you and want to hear more.
Create an elevator speech of less than 30 seconds. Your focus should be on your listeners’ needs; what your clients care most about; not necessarily what you care most about!
This is a clear, succinct phrase that tells people not only what you and your company do, but what problem you solve for your clients. In just a few seconds, it should establish you as an authority who stands out in your field. “We specialize in” and “we’re known for” are useful phrases for this purpose. State your experience in business sectors that are the same as or related to those of your conversation partners.
Unless you are risking a breach of confidentiality, always mention your clients whose names and reputations are immediately recognizable and impressive. As you namedrop, adopt a demeanor that suggests that you yourself are unimpressed and not boasting, but just stating relevant facts.
You can differentiate yourself from your competition by speaking about the “care factor”. For example you might say, “We are people who pay close attention to our clients and their needs.” This strategy moves the conversation away from products and services and moves it towards human beings; it will appeal to listeners on a more personal level.
Identify the results (the total effect) that your products and services will have on your listeners or their organizations. The benefits you identify should be clearly articulated and include one more of the following:
- Increasing profits
- Improving productivity
- Reducing the cost of doing business
- Increasing the competitive edge
To prepare, make a list of all the positive outcomes of what you provide. As you fine-tune your list, select ideas that are of greatest interest to your prospects and clients.
Be concise as you communicate benefits, and focus on your listeners’ ultimate goals. This will help generate interest, because you’re talking about bottom line benefits that your listeners are interested in most. Speak from their point of view. One way to hook listeners is to identify a problem that you can solve; a problem that makes them think: “I have that problem, too, and I really want a solution!” Don’t be afraid to go for the pain.
Talk about a time when you solved a specific problem for a client or customer in the past and how it benefited them. Mention situations in industries that are the same as (or as close as possible to) those of your conversation partners. This will send the message that you can do the same for them. Have a few success stories on hand, so that you’ll be able to choose a story that will have the most impact in a given conversation.
Include a phrase that your listeners will be able to remember easily and quote when they talk about you. They themselves will be helping help you carry your message! You might use alliteration for this purpose — repetition of the first sound of each word in a phrase. You want business people to identify and describe you in terms of the value you provide; the words should be easy to remember and repeat.
The way we write is different from the way we speak, so include language that is “mouth and ear friendly”: easy for you to speak (as Shakespeare said, “trippingly on the tongue”) and easy for your listeners to digest and repeat.
Create a script that is flexible. The way the conversation unfolds will determine which parts of your script you say and which you may eliminate at the spur of the moment. Have a few success stories rehearsed for a great delivery, so that you can choose in the moment which one will best apply for any given listener.
The objective of your elevator speech is to entice the listener to engage in discussion with you and want to hear more. Asking a question gives the listener an opportunity to answer briefly or continue the discussion to ask how you can help solve his/her business problem.
Crafting an effective elevator speech is a process. This means that you should always be fine tuning and editing, depending upon the responses you are getting as you speak it out there in the business world. The true test is the way people respond. Does your elevator speech help your listeners understand what you can do for them? Are they motivated to ask questions about what you do and how you do it? Is your elevator speech generating conversation? If the answer to these questions is NO, you’ll need to revise. And remember that, as you grow as a business person, and as your business changes, you’ll need to continue revising your elevator speech, in order to remain current and effective.
Finally, create three more versions of your elevator speech:
- One version that is condensed to fifteen seconds
- One version that is expanded to three minutes
- One version that is expanded with flexibility: for conversations that might last up to ten minutes
Once you have done this preparation and fully absorbed each script, you are ready to rehearse your delivery.
Rehearse your elevator speech until you can say it in your sleep. Rehearsal is very important for business speakers, just as it is for actors. Many people mistakenly believe that rehearsing makes you sound “canned” or phony. If that’s what happens when you rehearse, you need strategies for effective rehearsal.
When actors are speaking lines, their job is to make it sound as if they’re making it all up – right there on the spot. So, rehearsal is the preparation to appear completely spontaneous, conversational, and authentic.
Here is a very useful strategy that actors use to rehearse. It’s called “endowment”. The task is to “endow” your listeners with qualities that will help you speak with them with warmth and authenticity: the way you speak with a friend in conversation.
Rehearse with the following three steps:
- Think of a person from your own life (past, present; male, female; any age) in whose presence you feel loved, cared for, trusted, respected, and/or admired.
- Use the power of imagination before you begin. Choose a spot on the wall to place your focus. In your mind’s eye, “see” that person there in front of you.
- Use what actors call the “magic if”. As you say your elevator speech aloud, speak as if you were in conversation with that person. Take the time to connect with your positive feelings about him or her. If you rush this process, you will miss the emotions that will impact your tone and demeanor. Taking time to experience this emotional connection will help you speak in a spontaneous, conversational, and caring manner.
It’s very important to become flooded with positive feelings as you speak, so choose the “right” person to feed your imagination. Experiment with the technique of endowment by imagining various people from your real life, in order to discover which person most effectively triggers your expression of warmth, confidence, and poise.
Never tell anyone the identity of the person you have chosen to “use” for the process; keeping it as your own secret will strengthen the power that this technique will have on your delivery.
The technique of endowment will feel strange at first, so rehearse aloud as often as possible. Over time, rehearsal of the endowment process will strengthen your ability to focus your mind effectively; it will allow your imagination to work more and more quickly and help you project authenticity and spontaneity when you’re networking and meeting with prospects and clients.
Using the endowment technique has a secondary benefit: it will keep your mind so focused on the task at hand, that you’ll have very little emotional availability to be nervous or self-conscious.
The more often you rehearse with the technique of endowment, the easier it will be for you to appear conversational as you speak your script with warmth and authenticity.
Write and deliver your elevator speech strategically. Take these tips, and you will have an elevator speech that helps you generate interest and begin conversations that lead to sales.
Copyright © 2013-2015 Maria Guida
Maria Guida is an executive speaking coach/trainer, professional speaker, and Broadway actress. With her experience on stage, TV and film (working with Paul Newman, James Earl Jones, and Kevin Kline), she helps savvy executives in all industries enhance their credibility and generate business by speaking with poise, passion, and persuasive power. Delighted clients include American Express, JPMorgan Chase, and Johnson & Johnson. Maria travels extensively to deliver interactive and entertaining keynotes and workshops. She can be reached at 718-884-2282 and firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.successfulspeakerinc.com.