Creating an elevator speech

A elevator speech is a short speech – usually of 30 seconds – that is a pitch to an accidental meeting in an elevator with someone whom one wants to make an impression on. The objective is to not to deliver information about yourself or your projects, but rather to entice the other party to continue the conversation outside the elevator, or at minimum, exchange business cards. That is vital – more storytelling, and less information.

How do you build an elevator speech? Use the following as a guide.

  1. Why? There must be a reason that motivates you to make that speech, and an objective that you hope to achieve. This is help to give you speech a focus.
  2. Who are you? Most people seem to forget to prepare this part. Since most social interactions start with salutations, it means that when you do deliver the speech, that start is stilted and unsure. So when writing, you include a greeting and an identification. Also, when practicing your speech, use role-playing to get acclimatise yourself for the entire interaction.
  3. So what? This is the main purpose of the speech. Remember that you are trying to entice the other person, and as such, need to speak from a place of passion and authenticity. If you are not bursting from the awesomeness of your idea, why would anyone else. An elevator speech is about selling, so you need to be comfortable with that. And as long as you believe in what you are selling, channel your passion, and speak in your own voice, you will do well.
  4. To whom? Right, so you are passionate and authentic, but you are still talking to one person. Always keep that in mind. It is not about you, but what you are offer the listener. So craft the speech to entice that person. Importantly, you are trying to entice them with your idea, not impress them with your vocabulary. Leave the embellishments and bluster for another day, keep the language simple and the focus precise.
  5. Test and Practice. You should record yourself when practising your elevator speech. Listen to your vocal inflections and disfluencies. While you want it to sound like a conversation, and not an overly rehearsed scripted recitation, there is a degree of performance to it.
  6. Create a next action. Remember that this is a conversation (albeit a starter), so having a next action is important. This could mean an exchange of name-cards, which then allows you to follow up via email, a solicitation of their opinions on your key idea (no. 3), or even to just continue the conversation. This varies depending on the context, and the circumstances of the meeting. The key is to get them to engage with you, to contribute to the conversation.

When writing a speech, keep in mind the following;

  • It is a speech, so even though you are writing it, you need to make it conversational. So practise and testing is vital.
  • Keep the language simple and clear. Avoid jargon, slang, or institutional language.
    Humanise your language. You are writing about yourself so be authentic. Write naturally.
  • End strong and have a purpose. There is no next time, so don’t leave them wanting more. Just give it to them.

Bonus: Think about being at a dinner party and one of the guests asks you, “what do you do?” Can you answer in one sentence such that they understand what you do?

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  1. Pingback: The how of a speech | terryjohal

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