Ditch the Elevator Speech

Ditch the Elevator Speech

February 15, 2018 Good to Know 0

“You need an elevator speech!”

It’s one of the first lessons in Starting Your Own Business 101. Something that explains your business, doesn’t sound too sales-y and can be accomplished in 30-60 seconds, depending on how many floors you’re riding together.

I was never very good at it. I could tell you what my business does. Or what it could do for you. But I never seemed to get both done in under sixty seconds without running out of breath. I dreaded the moment that we had to share our elevator speeches in business groups. I changed it every time, yet it never seemed to convey what I wanted a prospective client to hear and understand.

Accomplishing that required an illustrative story, which I usually got to share following the elevator speech. And only after the recipient of my speech looked a bit confused and asked for clarification.

Everyone likes stories. Stories give us a chance to personalize. To illustrate with examples and details.

And we can use a story that fits the situation and the listener. One of my best stories goes like this:

My client was dealing with a lot of upcoming retirements and realized they didn’t have a sufficient bench of replacements. They selected thirty high potential people, determined required skills, identified technical and affective skills gaps, and designed development plans. My company developed and facilitated a program that covers Organizational Skills, Business Communication, Coaching and Leadership Development. The client now has a management workforce ready to step into leadership roles, and their succession planning is under control.

You could probably say that in 60 seconds. But now listeners have a concrete example of what you could do for them.

During a recent talk on networking, participants were asked to share a story. One of the attendees, a landscaper, looked uncomfortable. But by the time we got to him, he was ready. He told a story about a friend and colleague whose young wife was terminally ill with cancer. He was asked if he could design and build a healing garden off their deck. Working with the wife, the landscaper built a beautiful, peaceful place where she was comforted and spent many of her final days.

The room was silent. The power of that story was amazing. At the end of the program, the landscaper was approached by a local banker and member of her town’s library building committee. She wanted to talk with him about having her bank sponsor a similar garden on the grounds of the new library.

What are your stories?