The Diary of an Elevator Speech Dropout

elevator.speech.goonIf you don’t have a polished ‘elevator pitch’ you might feel like the odd one out at a traditional networking event. When asked, “What do you do for a living?” do you have a ready answer? A quick ‘elevator speech’ that’s clear and concise? A well composed elevator speech might have the moxie to hit home runs with the right people, however that approach often leaves much to be desired.

Usually the methods for creating an elevator speech are completely focused on selling benefits and/or features. Do that and you may just neglect THE main reason why people might want to do business with you in the first place. Know what that is? Because they liked something about you. People don’t respond to a pitch, but to YOU personally.

The thing I hate most about the elevator pitch is this – people are usually taught to compose them on paper using a cookie-cutter strategy (you’ll find it below), but the pitch is rarely adjusted to sound the way a real person speaks. (you’ll find that below, too). So the speaker tends to come across sounding very fake, like some phony facade from a programmed robot.

fingers.in.earsThat term ‘elevator pitch’ – ever feel like ya have to learn how to molest someone in an elevator?  <== Tweet that! No wonder so many people hate networking events! Geez! I know lots of people who avoid networking events and elevator pitches like the plague.

Common marketing terms like ‘elevator’ pitch’ and ‘squeeze page’ – both don’t exactly elicit warm fuzzy feelings.  The term ‘squeeze page‘ makes me think of sharks surrounding a victim, like some hustler is about to squeeze the air out of me.  They are just commonly used marketing terms, and the terms themselves don’t matter. It’s what we DO with them (or don’t do) that matters, and that’s HUGE!

The way you’d introduce yourself to a mom standing in line behind you at the grocery store would be different than a version you might present at a networking event – or heaven forbid, in an elevator! I’ve never even considered approaching a stranger in an elevator with some kind of business introduction. If I ever do, shoot me! I find the very idea insane! Yet that term keeps coming back like a boomerang, so I’m throwing out my two cents.

Below you’ll find a quick review of traditional approaches to create an elevator speech, followed by ideas to adapt that approach to make it more genuine, to sound like a real person speaking. You will also find many examples of an elevator speech (high-lighted in green) along with suggestions to make yours rock!

Traditional Formula for Creating an Elevator Speech

Here’s a traditional 3-step plan to compose your elevator speech. Tiny but mighty, yet there’s a caveat. Get the basics, then continue with a step outside the box to make it sound natural and genuine. Avoid a spiel that sounds phony and canned.

So consider these ABCs of composing an elevator speech.

The Three Main Puzzle Pieces: A=Audience, B=Benefit, C=Compelling Feature

  • Step 1 – Audience Clearly state your target marget. Be very specific here. This intro is usually stated: “I help ___________or I teach___________ ”   Examples:  spiritual women, health coaches, home owners, busy moms, small business owners, travelers…
  • Step 2 – Benefit What exactly do you help your clients achieve? Not what YOU do, but how clients benefit from your product or service.   Examples:  ‘balance life’ or ‘erase fears’ or ‘create amazing art’ or ‘build your brand’ or ‘connect with dream clients’
  • Step 3 – Compelling Feature Consider the client AFTER working with you bragging to a friend about the new boost that’s helped them so much, what IS that? Examples: streamlined business, active new vlog, energy boost, increased productivity, greater confidence, passive income, key business skills…

Got those three steps? Good. Now let’s make it REAL!

Crunch the Formula!   The Formula is Just a Guideline.  Improvise.

SO you have a list of your own unique phrases from the three categories above. However do NOT just go with your first draft. Instead, mix and match different phrases and consider ways to make your message clear as a bell. Strive to find a structure that you like. Strive to include the three elements above (audience, benefit, feature) but most important – strive to make your message resonate and make an impact as a real person.

Is it choppy, awkward, or too long? Tweak as needed until you’re happy with the flow. If you feel like your intro is too wordy or too salesy, then chances are that it IS! Generally the shorter, the better. Simple and brief clarity make powerful copy.

Is it confusing to listeners? Consider this example from Deborah Grayson Riegel at FastCompany.com:

“I help busy professionals (audience) live pain-free lives (benefit) so that they can get back to work (feature).

The above follows the formula, but what exactly does it mean? Is the person a massage therapist? MD? pain specialist? physical therapist? drug dealer? what?

Who talks like that? Nobody! What does she MEAN? Sound wacky to you?
Assuming she is addressing people who know nothing about her, wouldn’t it make a helluva lot more sense to start out by saying, “I’m a chiropractor. I help…”

In the following elevator speech examples, it appears (to me) fairly obvious they are all business coaches. So they make more sense without the need for that added clarification.

“I help startups (audience) maximize their social media strategies (benefit) to grow their customer base (feature).

“I teach online business owners (audience) the skills they need to create videos (benefit) and empower them to become confident using online videos (feature).”

“I help health coaches (audience) create the life of their dreams (benefit) by streamlining their businesses (feature).”

Another elevator speech example from a blogger, asked “So what’s your blog about?”:

“My blog helps health minded people (audience) to optimize their nutrition (benefit) with delicious natural food recipes (feature).”

Adding Spice to Your Introduction Once you have the basic structure for your elevator speech, look for ways to spice it up! Do your phrases feel awkward together? Too long? Too short? Too bland? Not descriptive enough? For example, most elevator pitches begin with the words “I help…” That’s OK, yet you might choose to change that verb ‘help’ to other possibilities that might stand out better. Consider possibilities like maybe: simplify, enable, empower, support, teach or give.

Clever and catchy phrases can be good, but clear is better than catchy. For example, I’m a sucker for clever alliteration (think ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of …’ you know the drill). Once I composed what I thought was a clever introduction with almost every word began with the letter S…something like ‘SoloSpark supports sassy solopreneurs…’ and the poor gal who had to read my intro had one helluva time spitting the words out. She got tongue-tied and apologized, but it was really my fault that no one understood. Sometimes clear wins hands down over catchy phrases and that was one of them.

Still You Can Spice it up with Humor!
“I’m a financial planner, and I make sure my clients don’t outlive their money.”
“I’m a travel agent. I enjoy getting to tell people where to go.”
“I’m a demolition text expert. I destroy jargon & techno-babble, then build bridges of clarity.”
“I do fundraising for the government.” (IRS or tax collection agent)

Think these sound entertaining and memorable? I do.

Get REAL! Ways to Give an Elevator Speech Without Sounding Phony

R – Rehearse & get feedback. You want to sound “real” and “genuine” more than polished. Do you feel comfortable saying it? If you feel cheesey when you say it aloud, then make some changes. Does it sound natural? Like YOU? Could you say it with ease to anyone at all? Read your phrases aloud with a friend or better yet, a mastermind group of supportive peers. In fact this sounds ironic but is crucial ==> Rehearse it until it sounds unrehearsed!

E – Ease up on the jargon. Use the simplest language possible. No one is impressed with your industry vernacular and huge vocabulary. Let the big words go and just SAY it.

A – Alter your spiel into a question rather than a statement. For example, a professional organizer might answer the question “What do you do?” with this response:

“You know those piles of papers you’ve got cluttering up your house that you’ve been meaning to get through? As a professional organizer, I help people finally get it all organized and streamlined.

L – Let spoken introductions be separate from written ones.  What looks good in writing often just won’t work well in spoken language. Be ready to respond with ease when you meet new people without sounding fake with some canned cold pitch or obvious tagline.

Do not speak the exact same way you write.  Of course you want to convey what you do for dream clients along with some benefits and features. Just don’t be a robot! Experiment with different approaches, never feeling you have to stay blocked inside only ONE formula. Make it more concise, more compelling, more genuine, more unique and even more fun.

There are times when it’s best to Ditch the Elevator Pitch! Tweet that! This kind of preparation and practice is good, yet there are times when it’s best to ditch the damn pitch and just be REAL! Don’t let your elevator pitch training become an effing roadblock. Say you’re in a conversation with a nice lady and she asks what you do. If your response sounds like a pitch it might go over like ice water. Just give a brief answer and then ask about HER! She’ll ask if she wants to know more.

As your business grows and changes, revisit your introduction. Come back to your bio now and then and consider this – does it still represent where you are AND does it express your future growth, where you want to be in the future? A clear statement of future directions might be even more important than your past. Make updates and changes as you and your business grow.

Can You Relate?
What do you think about these simple step-by-step approaches to elevator speeches? Have you used these strategies to create or improve your own elevator speech or business bio? Were the elevator speech examples helpful? Please comment below.
Carolan

Carolan Ross

CFO(Chief Fun Officer) at SoloSpark
Freelance writer, creative soul, solopreneur and former teacher who networks with rebels, visionaries, artists and other square pegs in round holes. I support solopreneurs with copywriting and juggling life and business to SHINE ONLINE!

Comments

  1. -Emily Stoik- says

    haha this is Awesome! My hubby is super good at this but we have both found asking questions first and just being friendly is the most natural approach for us! 🙂

    • Carolan Ross says

      Yes I agree, Emily, that being friendly in a natural way and a good listener is best. It also seems that males tend to be particularly good at ‘pitching’ for some reason.

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