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Freelancing and consulting: Why I’m up and down about elevator speeches

At this point we are all familiar with elevator speeches. That’s how we introduce ourselves to someone we have just met in an elevator. In other words, it’s a short speech.

Actually, the elevator speech is a rather appealing concept because this elevator idea grabs us. The term explains itself. It brings to mind an actual event we may have experienced when opportunity came knocking and we were not ready. We kicked ourselves afterwards for having blown it.

Next time we’ll be ready. We will know in advance how we will introduce ourselves. The opportunity is sudden; time is limited.

“I need that,” the other person will say. “I want that!”

It is good to be prepared and know what we will say.

However, there is also an “ick” factor. The other half of “elevator speech” is “speech.”

No wonder we tend to stall in coming up with one. We start again and stop. We turn off and switch our attention elsewhere.

The reason I get on an elevator is to save myself the effort that stairs require. I would skip the elevator if I thought I would be trapped in a tight space with a speech forced upon me.

Putting it all together, having a succinct way to seize the moment and introduce ourselves, is fine. Orating to another trapped individual is not fine.

The best elevator speech is short. It should not last more than a few floors. It should give the other person time to speak, whether to give their “elevator speech” or to reply to ours.

Yes, it’s not all about us. It’s about having a conversation that allows the other person speaking time.

So, the best elevator speech is:

  • Short.

  • Authentic. Unlike a speech, it should be natural and conversational in tone. No need to clear our throats and announce “ahem” as we start.

  • Appropriate to what we do. Sometimes a simple description works better than a “juicy,” “mouth watering” proposition.

  • Not so sales-y. I didn’t get on the elevator to go shopping.

  • Incomplete. Yes, you read it right. A successful elevator speech has the other person asking for more rather than silently praying we will shut up already.

  • Interactive. It’s not a speech, it’s a conversation. That means both people get to talk, even (heaven forbid) if a sale does not result.

Are you having trouble with your elevator speech? Maybe it’s because you are asking too much of it. It’s simply a conversation starter. It’s not really a speech. It’s not conversation bullying.

Spare us your success stories and quotations from your testimonials. If we want more info, we’ll ask.


Originally posted 12-9-14

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