Is Your Elevator Speech Pushing the Right Buttons?

I have been to quite a few networking events and I guarantee you will hear the phrase, "Tell me about yourself." Many people are able to answer this question with no problem, while others seem to struggle. If you find yourself experiencing the latter, one way to combat this issue is memorizing an elevator speech.

In case you are not familiar with this term, an elevator speech is a short spiel that enables you to convey with others your occupation and what you represent (i.e. attributes) in the same length of time it takes for you to reach the highest floor in an elevator (approximately 30 to 60 seconds). Think of it as a way to "break the ice" when you meet someone new. In order to find out if your speech is pushing the right buttons, keep the following in mind:

Know before you go: First impressions are extremely important. People form their judgments about a person within the first thirty seconds of meeting them. Therefore, when someone requests that you tell them about yourself, please do not waste these precious seconds.

I am not trying to be funny or mean when I say this, but please figure out what it is that you do and what you represent before you are asked (especially if you are going to a networking event!). When some people are asked to talk about themselves they act like it is a trick question and are literally stumped in trying to determine how to craft a response. Remember, only you have the answer. Using "fillers" such as 'um' or 'ah' will not help in your quest to project that you are a confident individual.

Would you want to listen to yourself?

When you are rehearsing your elevator speech keep in mind how you would feel if you were subjected to listening to your speech. Would you be satisfied or bored? If you are bored and you wrote the speech—imagine how the listener will feel. I realize not everyone has a "cool" job. However, this is still no excuse for having a boring elevator speech. How do you expect to impress a recruiter or land a new client without capturing their attention?

The key to getting where you want to be is to demonstrate that regardless of what your occupation is, you take ownership of your position and have pride in the work you perform. Do yourself a favor and craft an elevator speech worth listening to by including the following:

  • Your occupation Yes, this seems obvious, but it does not hurt to be reminded. In addition, make sure that you add the company name as well. The person listening to you might know one of your colleagues. Therefore, in the event that you are nervous, knowing a common person that the listener knows might make you feel more at ease.
  • Why are you unique? For example, instead of simply saying, "I am a Marketing Consultant," and bring the conversation to a screeching halt, why not say, "I am a Marketing Consultant that loves a challenge and truly enjoy assisting my clients."
  • Examples, please. When you craft your response by answering, "Why you are unique?" The degree to how well you craft your answer will determine how interested people will be in learning more about you. You will know you accomplished this feat when the next question you are asked is, "How do you [insert your exceptionally crafted answer—i.e. assist your clients]?" This question will enable you to share your skills and talents without being viewed as "pushy." Make the most of your time in the spotlight by giving 3 quick examples to support why you are [insert your exceptionally crafted answer].

Facial expressions speak just as loud as words: When you are speaking make sure you are paying attention to how others are reacting to your speech. If you see someone is confused, immediately stop and ask them if they need clarification. Oftentimes, if people are confused they will let you keep talking because they are afraid that they will come across as ignorant (of course this could not be further from the truth!).

It is your responsibility to put their mind at ease by being direct and asking them if they need clarification. I often receive puzzled looks when I mention that my company offers virtual assistant services. When I receive these looks, the next words out of my mouth are, "Are you familiar with the concept of virtual assistance?" When I offer to clarify a term or phrase that is unfamiliar to the other person, I can see the sigh of relief on their face and am then told, "No, if you do not mind can you explain it to me."

It does neither person any good to allow you to continue talking when you are not on the same page. The other person will undoubtedly harbor feelings of insecurity because they did not understand what you do. When you fail to pick up on nonverbal cues that your listener is confused , your listener will assume that you are "smarter" than them and you will miss out on the chance to connect.

Remember, the whole purpose of an elevator speech is to share what you do and what you represent. You are also satisfying their curiosity in why you are a phenomenal person that they should become better acquainted with and worth adding to their network. You have to make sure that your speech is pushing the right buttons so you can get off on the same floor together.