Do You Need an Elevator Speech?

The term “Elevator Speech” has come in for some criticism over the years, especially as it relates to the small business owner. Before examining the case for the elevator speech, it is worth considering why there is a debate about whether it is a “good thing”.

Much of the criticism to be found in the blogging world seems to relate to the term itself. When this happens there it is generally a good idea to examine the mindset behind the critique. In many cases the term “Elevator Speech” conjures up an image of a slick, well rehearsed, marketing spiel aimed solely at telling the listener all about the speaker, often using clever terminology and plays on words. This position is perhaps understandable. After all, who really wants to listen to many such speeches in a networking session?

Another misunderstanding relates to the many settings where an elevator speech or 30 second introduction might be used. The two most common (outside a small business introduction) are the pitch to a venture capitalist about a business idea (where the term elevator speech was most likely coined) and the job search scenario. Now, these are all places where it pays to have a good introduction and many of the tenets of an effective introduction apply to all these situations. However there are differences and it is a mistake to consider them all under the same heading.

So let us turn to the Small Business Elevator Speech and examine why the criticism, while sometimes justified, should be tempered by reality.

1. You will be asked what you do – a lot. In social settings as well as at networking meetings. It is probably the most commonly asked question after “how are you?” What are you going to say?

2. Most people aren’t that interested in you – sorry, but that is the reality of many social and business situations. “What do you do?” is a conversational question. That doesn’t mean they won’t be interested in the answer, but you have to grab their attention quickly, or else it is just noise and general conversational chit-chat.

3. You may only have 10 seconds – this is the route of the elevator speech definition. It would be nice to think you have half an hour to really get to know someone, but often times you don’t. You need to get their attention right away, so you have a better chance of a longer conversation later.

4. Telling is selling – and see point number 2 above. It is all very well to say: “I don’t need an elevator speech, I will just tell people what I do” but you that is tough to do succinctly in 30 seconds unless you have given it considerable thought and planning.

5. It can be spontaneous (or at least appear so) – just because something is planned and practiced doesn’t mean it has to be trite, forced or learned by rote. There are numerous ways to say the same thing, vary the delivery or use different words. Doing so will keep your message fresh even to someone who has heard it before.

6. You don’t need to be a clever wordsmith. Indeed sometimes this can be detrimental. A simple message that outlines who you serve (your ideal client) and the challenges you help them overcome is all you need.

In summary, however you chose to phrase an introduction, accept that you will be asked for it, probably countless times! You need to be prepared to answer that most common on questions about you and your business and being able to do so in a way that grabs attention and interest AND stands out from the crowd is one of the most important small business tools in your marketing toolkit. Avoid the temptation to dismiss it – call it something else if you will but you do need an elevator speech!