Although the phrase “elevator speech” has been used in marketing circles for years, it has become a hot topic recently with those I talk to in the industry. While we have all worked hard to get our logo usage consistent, keep our website updated and spend the necessary time to create meaningful marketing budgets and plans, the elevator speech still seems to be a bit of a mystery and quite unnerving. However, by tackling this mysterious concept and developing the right speech for your company, you’ll eliminate the cumbersome and clunky initial sales process.

Jargon Junction

The phrase “elevator speech” is best explained by asking what can you tell a complete stranger about your company in the time it takes to ride an elevator from one floor to another – the length of attention span we typically afford a stranger or new acquaintance.  Simply, an “elevator speech” is a short description – roughly 15 to 30 seconds – of what you do or what your company does. This sound bite should succinctly and memorably introduce you.

But, beyond simply telling someone what you do, an elevator speech should relate to your audience in a meaningful way. I think this is where many of us get stuck in developing or delivering our speech. Although it is easy to tell someone you are a concrete subcontractor, for example, sharing your particular market niche is bit more cumbersome when put on the spot. A good elevator speech, however, should explain the real benefit of the services you provide and how you differ from your competition. In other words, how are you a solution provider and how does that relate to the person you are talking to? For example, are you a concrete contractor that has developed a unique expertise in meeting the needs of owners seeking fast-track solutions? Or, have you supplied concrete for more schools than any of your competitors in the last year? By finding the right words, you can engage your audience in your business while also showing your expertise.

Developing Your Speech

To develop your elevator speech, you must first identify how your products and/or services benefit your customers and the marketplace. Your speech shouldn’t be a recount of your resume, rather, a summary of what your talents and expertise mean to the person you are talking to. Don’t feel pressured, however, to tell the whole story. Some of the best elevator speeches provide a snapshot of your business but leave the listener begging for more information. Be careful not to ramble as that is the quickest way to turn off a new acquaintance.

After writing down your differentiator and what it means to others, practice it. Outloud. Often. And then do it again. The most forgotten, or ignored, step is rehearsal of the elevator speech. Experts have found that one of the strongest signs of performance anxiety is procrastination and the real reason presenters avoid rehearsals is fear. Contrary to popular opinion, practice enables your speech to be more spontaneous and flexible as practice breeds familiarity.

Practice also will help you determine if the words you have selected actually work. For example, the words may look good on paper, but they sound canned, trite or plain ridiculous when spoken. This is often the case when firms try to memorize their vision statement or tagline and regurgitate the words with little or no connection to the person they are talking to. In this instance, the elevator speech is not adopted by your team. In contrast, your speech should be something that comes from your heart, makes sense, is easy to remember and rolls of the tongue easily.

How to Gauge Success

Interestingly enough, though the elevator speech seems to be one of the most challenging marketing tactics to tackle, it is one of the easiest in terms of gauging success. How do you know if you are successful? It’s simple. How did the conversation go after your speech? Did your introduction result in further conversation and questions about your unique selling proposition and industry niche? Do you feel like you engaged your audience and found a way to relate to them? Remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And, a great elevator speech allows you to position your company as one that has a clear vision and passion about what you do – attributes we all enjoy seeing in others.