For years, marketing people, management consultants and networking experts held forth on what the perfect elevator speech should sound like. You know the elevator speech. It got its name on the premise that if you meet someone in an elevator at the top floor of a building and they ask you what you do, you should be able to give a powerful blurb about yourself in the time it takes to reach the ground floor.
Some consultants pushed people to be “creative” with their elevator speech and at the same time had them load it up with benefits to the listener.That’s a lot of information in one or two initial sentences in a noisy room where no one is particularly focused.
Most elevator speeches go something like this, “Hi, my name is Ray Brown and I help my clients find inner peace by underwriting for them the best damn business insurance program in the country.” Or… “Hi, I’m Susie Brown and I’m called the Duchess of Devotion because my personal mission is to help each employee get 100% of the benefits they earned and deserve.”
Most elevator speeches are used at networking functions. You meet someone and say “Hi, what do you do?” then they unleash this fabricated salvo of words at me that sounds like they lifted a segment from a Tony Robbins seminar. It’s never conversational and always thrown at you as if it were a hand grenade. “Hi, I’m Bill Smith and I help my clients protect the ROI on their investments by executing a 9 step program that looks under every rock for traps.”
A Better Elevator Speech.
Here’s the problem with all these elevator speeches. They are canned, they are not in people-speak and they are awkward. It’s someone talking at you, not with you. Instead of starting the conversation with the “what do you do” question, pretend you are two human beings having a conversation. It might sound like this:
“Hi, nice to meet you, I’m Bill Smith.”
“Hi Bill. My name is Jack Rossin.”
Then we might chat about how and why we are at the networking function, and often from that I’ll then ask “Oh, what do you do Bill?” And Bill says something like “I’m an accountant.” And I ask “Big firm, small?” After Bill answers I might ask if there is an area he specializes in, how his business is these days, etc. If he works for individuals I might ask how all these do-it yourself tax programs have helped or hurt his business. I’m actively listening to what he just said, not waiting for my turn to speak.
Then he’s probably going to ask me what I do and I say “I’m a presentation trainer. I help people become more comfortable in business settings.” He’ll then ask me a few questions about my business. The closest I ever get to “selling” is when I tell about the coolest part of my business — watching how weak presenters become good presenters after a few hours work. I’m always careful not to inflate the results. He’ll sense I’m being honest.
Then he might offer me his business card, I do the same, we shake hands and move on. I may make a note on his card to follow up if I think there is business or referrals there.
Get rid of your canned elevator speech. Live in the moment. Answer the questions asked without too much rambling, ask more questions of the other guy then they asked of you. Be interested and interesting. Have a real conversation. Smile. Listen. Have fun, exchange cards. If something comes of it, great. If not, keep working the room. You gotta throw a lot of pasta against the wall before something sticks.
Ps: One last point. In writing this blog I started thinking about all of the events and all of the networking I’ve done in my life. Lots! I’ve found the real reward is seeing people I know who I haven’t talked with in years. Some of those people have then given me business because they remembered me fondly. I don’t think I ever got business from a stranger I met at a networking event. Perhaps you have.