The elevator speech gets a lot of emphasis as a needed tool for job seekers and business owners alike. However, I think that the elevator speech has become a thing to have and not a process to go through. These elevator speeches (rarely given on elevators, by the way!) help you to think through your strengths, your contributions, and what you need from your community in a few simple sentences. They should take the time it takes to travel from the lobby to the top floor of a tall building (…or the time it takes to go from the lobby to the third floor in a slow elevator).
The elevator speech isn’t something that you memorize word-for-word, but is rather a series of points, ideas, and action items that you want to have in your back pocket. You can use this “speech” while networking, in a job interview, in your LinkedIn profile, or in emails when you’re asking for an informational interview. The reason you don’t want to memorize it word-for-word is so that you can customize it for your audience. It is the distillation of how a person can help you in a memorable few sentences with a clear, specific request.
Here are the components of the elevator speech:
- Start with who you are and what you do. If you are looking in a new field or changing careers, still introduce yourself as if you have the job or business that you want. After all, you are a social worker even if you’ve just graduated from school or a social entrepreneur even if you’re still working on your business plan. You want people to associate your name with the job or business you want. Keep this simple: “Hi, I’m Maurice and I’m a conflict mediator.”
- Next, what is your specialization, your passion, your unique ideas, or whatever sets you apart and explains what you want to do? If you can frame this in terms of solving problems, so much the better. “I’m certified in communications and conflict resolution and I’m particularly passionate about working with administrators and teacher unions who have come to an impasse.”
- Then, introduce what you want to contribute, i.e., what you’re looking for. “I’m currently looking for a job in the HR department of school district.”
- Finally, what kind of support do you need: “Do you know of anyone I could talk to?” Have several of these requests handy in case they say “no” or the request simply doesn’t fit. “What would you do if you were me?” “How did you get started in your field?”
Most likely, if you’ve written this out, you’ve ended up with something that sounds stiff or too formal if you say it out loud. So, practice a few times until you find something that sounds like you. Before going to an event or gathering where you’re planning on networking (or community-building!), modify your elevator speech so that it’s relevant to the people you’re going to meet and say it in front of a mirror a few times beforehand until you feel completely comfortable introducing yourself to new people. Oh, and if you ever use an elevator speech in an elevator, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about it!