Making a Great First Impression With an Elevator Speech

You walk into an elevator, you are the only one in it, then the gal/guy who lives 2 flights up (that you’ve wanted to meet) gets on. Quick, say something! You say, “Uh, hi, uh, my name is Jack, and uh, you live up stairs, uh…” Door opens, the gal/guy runs for her/his life. And you just want to take the walk of shame.

You are at a chamber of commerce networking event, across from you is the CEO of your “dream company.” What do you do? What do you say?

Quick, there’s the woman who you know can get you in for that interview. What do you do? What do you say?

So, what the heck is an elevator speech? Well, it’s a quick 15 to 30 second introductory statement of yourself. Some call it an elevator speech, because if you ran into someone in an elevator, you do not have much time to get your point across. Obviously, you will use this micro statement in a whole lot of other places than in an elevator, but you get the point, right.

Fact is, whatever you call it, it is an important networking tool for marketing yourself, breaking the ice with people you meet or making a run for those opportunities before the others get to it. Think of it as a sound bite, a movie trailer for someone to remember you by, and intrigued enough to want to see the whole movie (you). So, the initial principle is a sound bite that is clear, concise, informative and engaging. Got all that. The goal is not to lay yourself bare on the first contact but, again, offer up a movie trailer of you.

Really, having a prepared elevator speech with you at all times, like a business card – another networking tool, is more about you than anything else. Having a well rehearsed, introductory statement that you can whip up on anyone is such a huge confidence builder. If you are in an elevator and that dream gal/guy walks in, wow, knowing what to say and to say it with confidence is huge. Here’s the other thing, when you are actively in the job market, everyone – everyone – is 6 degrees away from your dream job. Having the speech, business card (see earlier article), ready is crucial.

So, as you prepare your elevator speech, you do need to consider a few things. First and foremost, it must sound effortless and natural. It has to sound conversational. Write a brief statement that you think works and then practice, practice, practice. You practice in front of the mirror, to your friends, to your mentor. Key is not so much to memorize it, as it is to know it. To know it backwards and sideways and forwards. It has to sound natural. The person listening has to say, this one is speaking to me!

As we talked about previously regarding business cards, your micro speech has to be memorable, and in this case, also sincere. Let this brief statement give your listener a peek-a-boo look into your personality. Write and rewrite, practice and refine. First time, your statement might be one or two minutes long. That is okay. Just practice, refine, practice, refine. What is verbose; what is not necessary; what really is not going to be important to the listener (maybe important to you, though), seek counsel.

When it is showtime, have confidence in what you have been practicing. Visualize confidence. Visualize getting a positive reaction to your micro statement. And if you get a little nervous or feel a few butterflies fluttering about in your gut, that is okay. That is probably normal. You are at a network event, everyone is probably feeling the same, but who is prepared. Visualize success.

Make eye contact. Smile. Extend that hand and shake with a “firm” grip. Speak slowly, stop for natural breaks in the conversation. And, by the way, if the conversation goes well, cut it short. Excuse yourself, set up time to get together later. Leave them wanting more, not you be desperate. And if the interest is not there, just excuse yourself politely and leave. Do not waste your time or theirs.

By the way, this works for cold calling. I will talk more about this in a later article, but by all means, this is a perfect time to use your elevator speech. Especially, if you have to leave a voicemail. Practice, come across natural. Why you are calling, how you would benefit him or her, how you are the solution to his or her problem and asking for a call back.

Lastly, your elevator or micro statement must end with a call to action. If you do not, then this whole exercise was for naught.

One other thing, every situation is different and you must have the wherewithal to adapt your speech to the circumstance you find yourself in. If you practice and refine and practice and refine, then this will not be a problem, as you will know what needs to be said backwards and forwards.

In short, having an elevator speech can only help improve your chances for getting that job you want. So, I urge to develop one now, if you have not already done so.