When Elevator Speeches Don’t Work for You | FreelanceSwitch

Permit me to introduce you to my mouth, the black hole from which no elevator speech can escape.

For some reason, which is probably embedded in my DNA, I’ve never been very good devising short, catchy descriptions of what I do for and how people will benefit from it. It’s to the point where, if someone asks, I’ll say, “I mangle elevator speeches!” Or words to that effect.

This is a common affliction, and one that isn’t just limited to creative freelancers. A few years ago, I was listening to a radio comedy show that is famous (or infamous) for the host’s penchant for wandering around the theater and mingling with audience members. During one broadcast, the host encountered a dentist. When asked what he did for a living, the dentist said, “I’m a smile designer.”

I could have sworn that I heard that man grimacing over the radio. He was obviously uncomfortable using such clever marketing-speak to describe his profession.

What’s worse, the host and the rest of the audience found the concept of “smile designer” to be hilariously funny. I’m willing to bet that the dentist went back to using the D-word to describe himself.

Okay, so you’re not a dentist. And you don’t play one on the radio. But you’re still going to be faced with situations when catchy self-introductions are called for. How can you make them work for you? Here are three solutions:

1.  Don’t just rely on words. Fifteen years ago, I was a member of a women’s networking group here in Tucson. I was trying to get established in the web design field, and I’d heard that attending this group’s meetings would be good for my business. Well, to make a long story short, hauling a website into a meeting just wasn’t going to work. (After all, this was 1995.) But there was another member who did packaging design. And she had a habit of bringing jigsaw puzzle boxes to the meetings so she could use them as “show and tell” pieces. Members never failed to marvel at them.

Well, times have certainly changed, haven’t they? There’s nothing that forbids web people from holding up a smart phone or an iPad showing examples of the latest designs. Same goes for photographers. Why not share postcards featuring your latest corporate portrait work? You could also be like the guy who gave out mugs that likened a programmer to a machine that turns coffee into code. Whatever is in good taste that makes you memorable, right?

2.  Poke fun at the whole idea of elevator speeches. Join me in being a butcher of them. Or come up with your own satirical shtick. Be like American late night TV host David Letterman and create a Top 10 List featuring the Stupidest Elevator Speeches. (Smile designers, beware!) Instead of enduring an awkward introductory moment, you and your conversation partners can work on building that list.

3. Find an elevator speech therapist. Instead of trying to come up with your own elevator speech, have a friend or trusted colleague help you.

After all, those pesky “What do you do?” questions aren’t going away, so you might as well make your peace with elevator speeches. And, for a little bit of Freelance Switch help in this area, read Will Kenny’s article as you work with your elevator speech therapist.

Tip: Your elevator speech therapist should be clever, but not overly so. After all, you need to be comfortable with what you’re going to use. Otherwise, you’ll come across like that reluctant smile designer.

Here’s an example of just the right amount of cleverness: I have a highly unusual last name, one that’s a real challenge to say and spell. A former boss devised this handy guide: “It’s like ‘metallic’ except that you put an ‘R’ at the beginning and a ‘k’ after the ‘c’.”

I don’t know how she came up such a thing – it had never occurred to me. But “Metallic-Retallick” felt right from the moment I heard it – and that was 20 years ago. (Thanks, boss!)

Posted via web from AndyWergedal