I participate in many conversations about elevator speeches in various networking groups. A question often raised in these conversations is how to convey our key information succinctly and memorably. The elevator speech needs to achieve both of those objectives, but the optimal verbiage to accomplish both can be elusive. So I want to share a summary of the best practices I have encountered thus far about crafting the elevator speech.
It’s a Commercial:
The elevator speech needs to be brief, between 30 and 60 seconds according to most sources. These time constraints underscore the aptness of the other name for an elevator speech: the 30 second commercial. And just as a commercial’s purpose is to make you pick up a product in a store several days later, yours should intrigue the reader or listener enough to ask follow-up questions.
Many sources about elevator speeches stress that it must sound natural, an honest reflection of your passion for the work and the way you speak. This is important for one very simple reason. If you pique someone’s interest and they ask follow-up questions, an abrupt shift from the highly polished 30 second commercial to a something much less polished may harm your credibility with the listener. While your elevator speech may be so finely crafted that it resembles the work of William Shakespeare, if you don’t usually speak in Elizabethan English using iambic pentameter, using it is probably not the best idea.
We each possess a unique set of skills, aptitudes, work experience, and qualifications which make us great candidates. From that rich background should flow the success stories of your work history. Perhaps an idea you had saved your employer millions of dollars. Maybe you landed a significant client—or retained a major client that was considering moving on. Or did you streamline a process so that it required 25% less time, thereby freeing colleagues to spend time addressing other pressing matters? In like fashion, your success stories should underscore the unique combination of talents you represent. While you likely will have time for only one success story when you give your elevator speech, it’s important to have several on hand, because the conversation may lend itself to including a different success story in one circumstance than another.
Your elevator speech, no matter how polished, natural, or engaging, is never really “done”. As you encounter new situations or new advice that resonates with you, it will continue evolving, a mirror reflecting those experiences and that advice. You would be very unlikely to deliver your elevator speech in a networking group the same way you would in an interview.
And this is a good thing! This need for constant change serves as a valuable reminder that, as with any other best practices, relentless commitment to excellence is the single most important part of the equation.
And at the end of the day, best practices in crafting your elevator speech helps you stay focused on the big picture: landing your next job.