Steps to Management Success – Step 48: Develop a Compelling Elevator Speech

Written By Rick Frishman Published March 31st, 2010

STEP FORTY-EIGHT

Develop a Compelling Elevator Speech

You’re in an elevator and in walks the prospect you’ve been trying to reach for a year. You’ve got fifteen seconds to make an impression. What do you say?

“Hi, my name is Austin Frye, I’m in real estate.”

or

“Hi, I’m Arnie Belder, the freelance writer who’s been leaving you all those messages.” or

“Hi, my name is Elaine Teller, and I’m an executive recruiter.”

Blah! Bland! Boring! And what’s even worse, you have blown a major, albeit time-limited, opportunity to create a more sparkling first impression. You need an elevator speech—your own personally delivered ad that you never have to pay for. Quite the contrary, it will pay for you!

WHAT IT MEANS: In the time it takes to ride an elevator with a stranger (about fifteen seconds), you have the opportunity to not only make a great first impression, but to demonstrate your professionalism, position yourself, network, and begin to extend your sphere of influence. Are you making the most of your fifteen seconds of fame? An elevator speech is a great opening positioning message that’s engaging, memorable, and a great conversation starter. Every businessperson and professional should have one.

ACTION PLAN: Develop your own elevator speech and practice it until it becomes as natural an extension of yourself as your right hand. Don’t forget to maintain eye contact and to smile. Whether you open with a provocative statement, a bit of mystery, or something funny, the objective is to grab a stranger’s attention. Starting out by simply stating “I’m a financial planner” is just too vanilla. Your challenge is to cast your occupation in its most ennobling light, to captivate your listener. For example, a nutritionist teaches people “how to behave in front of food,” and there’s an imaginative IRS agent who tells people he’s a government fund-raiser. What is it that you do in your occupation that would be mostly likely to interest a stranger?

EVEN BETTER: Get feedback on your elevator speech from colleagues and friends. Many elevator speeches end with a question to both involve the listener and glean new information that helps qualify the listener in the speaker’s eyes. A caterer might ask questions about the nature and frequency of special events requiring catering services, or who the company contact is for such services. Questions that can’t be answered with just a yes or no will elicit meaningful information to help the speaker determine whether a good fit exists.

(Excerpted from: 10 Clowns Don’t Make a Circus. . . and 249 Other Critical Management Success Strategies by Steven Schragis and Rick Frishman)


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