Elevate Your Elevator Speech

How prepared are you to answer the question, "What do you do?" Everyone's elevator speech can use an upgrade. Here are six tips to consider before your next networking event (or elevator ride).

By Phil Stella

How prepared are you to answer the question, “What do you do?” Everyone’s elevator speech can use an upgrade. Here are six tips to consider before your next networking event (or elevator ride).

Elevator speeches … 30-second commercials … shameless self-promotions. They’re our typical response to the often asked “What do you do?” We all use them at networking meetings and other professional group events. But most of us don’t do them with enough focus, flexibility and finesse. As these events increase with warmer weather, it’s time for your annual Elevator Speech Upgrade. So, enjoy these simple and easy strategies to elevate your elevator speech (ES).

ES tip no. 1: Less is definitely more
Elevator speeches are supposed to begin a dialogue – not a monologue. They should provide enough focused information to engage your listeners in conversation. Think billboards, not full-page ads. With every word or fact you might mention, ask yourself “Who cares – really?” Hint – it’s them, not you.

ES tip no. 2: It’s not about you
It’s about the people listening to it. It’s about why they should want to ask you more questions to get to know you better. A good ES should generate four or five more specific questions if they’re interested in you. If not, you’ve just saved them and you some valuable networking time. Move on … and see if they’ve brought out the shrimp yet.

>> RELATED: Connect with class: Best practices for making new connections

ES tip no. 3: Let go the ego
Who really cares about your title? It’s probably on your business card anyway. Write out your typical ES and count the “I” statements. The more you have, the more ego you can let go.

ES tip no. 4: Become buyer-driven
Typical ES content includes a seller-driven menu of our products, services or features. Stand out in a crowd by becoming more buyer-driven. Focus on what they want or getwhen they work with you … the benefits and value.

ES tip no. 5: WII-FM?
Everyone is listening to the same virtual radio station all the time – “What’s In It – For Me?” If you focus on a buyer-driven ES, they will clearly hear what could be in it for them. And they might also see something in it for someone they know – the mission-critical referral.

ES tip no. 6: Practice doesn’t make perfect!
No, practice only makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect. So, practice your succinct, buyer-driven ES so it’s articulate and enthusiastic. Prepare similar focused responses to the obvious question interested people might ask.

>> RELATED: The dos and don’ts of effective one-on-one meetings

Let’s put these strategies to work with a simple example:


Maybe your typical seller-driven ES goes something like …

“I’m founder, president and managing partner of Schmoozer Creative Services Incorporated. I write copy. I design campaigns. I place media buys. I handle collateral and point of purchase … I even coordinate web designs and e-commerce. I work with small, medium and large clients in NE OH, around the state and in other major markets. I work in all major industry segments. I’ve been in business for six years.”

Not all that bad for a seller-driven message … but it’s too long, rambling, egocentric and feature-laden. The listener is likely to get off at the next floor.

… and After:

With a little focus and finesse, your new buyer-driven message could go like this…

“I run Schmoozer Creative Services and work with entrepreneurs who want to maximize their advertising results. Agencies and ad departments who want creative, efficient and effective outside support also benefit from my work. They value my help in copywriting, campaign design, media buying, collateral and POP coordination.”

What a Difference!

  • Shorter – from 71 words down to 47.
  • Focused – some facts didn’t pass the “Who cares?” test, like bland references to markets, industry segments and tenure.
  • Unpretentious – from eight “I” statements down to one and no reference to founder and title. “I run…” suggests ownership without the ego.
  • Benefits-rich – instead of the usual laundry list of features, it suggests who benefits from partnering and how. It stresses value.
  • Buyer-driven – it’s easy for listeners to determine if there’s enough interest to ask more specific questions or consider a referral.

Simple … And Easy

If you want to easily take your elevator speech to a higher floor, write out what you typically say in response to “… so what do you do?” Edit it in the context of the comments above. Then, polish and practice it until it flows smoothly with enthusiasm and sounds just like you. Then … enjoy the ride up to the top floor.

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440 804-4785, and empowers business leaders to communicate confidently. A popular trainer and executive coach on workplace communications and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.


On Key

Related Posts

Sustainability for Busine$$ with Laura Steinbrink

On the third episode of Sustainability For Busine$$, COSE Executive Director Megan Kim sits down with Managing Member of Emerald Built Environments, Laura Steinbrink, to share the funding opportunities available

Sustainability for Busine$$ with Andrew Watterson

On the second episode of COSE’s Sustainability for Busine$$, where we delve into the dynamic world of corporate responsibility and sustainable business practices, we are excited to welcome Andrew Watterson,

Sustainability for Busine$$ with Victoria Avi

Welcome to “Sustainability for Busine$$,” the podcast where we dive deep into the world of sustainable practices and their implications for small business owners.  In this inaugural episode, we are