Take the Short Ride to Glory

Let your elevator speech make a difference!

If you’re on an elevator with Michael Malone, you’re in for a treat. Malone used to run the McLean County Chamber of Commerce. When you’ve got a few seconds to transact some business, here’s how he trained his staff to think.

One of the most uncomfortable trips can be a ride on an elevator. People are often self-conscious and travel in silence. Don’t be one of these people! This is an opportunity to create a new customer, to gain an investor, or to outline an opportunity.

“Elevator speeches” are the 100 to 150 words that will outline an idea, product, service or project. It is often used by salespersons or entrepreneurs seeking investors. Many vendors will judge the viability of the initiative and the individual by the quality of this speech. It is a clear, concise explanation of what you or your company does, or what it means to be associated with the deliverer’s group. It must be memorable and cause the listener to want more.

It isn’t a sales pitch. The listener isn’t buying the product, they are buying the company or person. For example, “I do [nature of service] for [ideal client] so that they can [benefit to the client].”

“Your speech has four steps: the hook, the deliverables, the benefits, and putting it all together,” says Jay Lipe in his book How to Craft a Winning Elevator Speech. The hook gets their attention, the deliverables describe what you do to create change, the benefits are the results of your actions, and putting it all together is the concise message.

Mike’s Elevator Mojo

  • Make it clear who you work with. This isn’t the company name. It’s your target market.
  • Describe the biggest problem you solved. This isn’t a bragging session, but a statement of how you make change happen; what you do—not what you are going to do. Tell your benefits and the part you play in change, with an example of the change. 
  • Don’t tell them how you do it. Save that for later. You want to entice them for more. Use stories, since they are fundamental building blocks of effective communication. Know the stories of your success. Tell them about the good taste of the cake, so to speak, not the recipe to bake it. 
  • Avoid the stereotyped image of a profession. Leave labels out of the conversation. The worst thing you can do is tell them you are a _____. Let the listener figure it out by the speech you deliver. Jay Lipe would say “I turn the world green,” not “I am a landscaper.”
  • Leave the jargon and acronyms at home. Elevatorspeech.com suggests using language that really matters. 
  • Practice. Practice. Practice. Your speech needs to be automatic, because clear speaking reflects clear thinking. 
  • Be passionate and enthusiastic about helping people. This is a magnet to attract people to you since you solve problems. You want the listener to hear and see your commitment. Be aware and use confident body language. 
  • When finished, you don’t want the listener to ask, “So what?” Tweak it and test it with different audiences, but keep the message consistent.

Avoid These Missiles to the Mojo

  • Your speech should be automatic, but not canned.
  • Don’t rush—relax the delivery and mean it, which will keep it fresh.
  • Don’t ramble. 
  • Don’t focus on just yourself.

Elevator speeches are clear, concise, consistent, intriguing—and fun. You can create a new customer, gain an investor and create change. You must be ready and use the 16 seconds to reach glory. After all, what would you want to say if Warren Buffett or Bill Gates steps into the elevator when the doors open? iBi

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