The Daunting Elevator Speech

When you were graduating from college, heading out into the professional world, someone along the way probably told you to work on your “elevator pitch,” that is, exactly what you would say given thirty seconds to convince someone that they should hire you. They probably recommended you think of your strengths, your unique qualities that differentiated you from the crowd, what you could bring to that specific business or industry.

When you went out on your own and started a business, or joined a team, you most likely heard the same advice. Create, perfect, hone your elevator pitch in order to convince potential clients why they should choose you above your competition. Highlight what makes you different, why you’re the better choice. Convince them. Sell them. Make it impossible for them to say no.

Reality check: that’s a tall order. Especially because prospective clients, or bosses, or investors, or employees, don’t come in one-size-fits-all. So you probably need about 100 elevator pitches, each specifically honed and crafted for the individual to make them feel special, unique, not like you’re reciting a speech from rote memory. Which, let’s be honest, if you have to memorize 100 of them, you probably are doing exactly that.

So what do you do? How do you fix it? If you encounter someone you’d love to sell on your product, whether that’s your business or yourself, how do you make sure you have the fine points down and not sound like a less enthusiastic version of C3PO?

Identify Your Selling Point

Your guidance counselors and mentors weren’t wrong. You do need to spend some time identifying what makes you different. Do you have the best product on the market? The lowest price? The quickest turnaround? What makes you unique; helps you stand apart from your competition? Maybe you staff exclusively graduates from certain degree programs, so you guarantee the quality of work. Perhaps you only buy and source materials locally, so you can provide fresh, organic product while still supporting the local economy. Whatever your differentiations, make a list of the top few. Those will become the crux of your elevator speech.

Practice Public Speaking

Those with a fear of public speaking, I apologize; there’s no substitution for ease in front of a crowd of strangers. As much as it sounds like you’re checking a requirement off your list for graduation, public speaking is a skill which has no match. If you can stand up in front of a crowd of people and feel at ease, comfortable talking, you’ll be much more likely to feel at ease when talking to a potential client, investor, etc.

Imagine you’re at a networking event, but you’re standing in the corner. You make small talk with the few strangers who venture towards you, but you’re closed off from the majority of the room. Even in your brief conversations, you stay away from “political” topics like what you do and why you’re the best. The reality is, you’re probably not going to make any new clients or business contacts.

Now, imagine you’re at the same networking event, standing in the same corner. Instead of making brief small talk, you actively engage the first person who approaches you. Using your public speaking skills to read your audience, you ease into a conversation about what they do, then use your list of selling points to hammer home to them why they should hire you. After casually ending the conversation, you move around the room engaging in the same way with others. At the end of the event, you’ve probably met several contacts and potential clients.

Public speaking courses or clubs teach you not only to be at ease with an audience, but also to think on your feet. If you’re forced to study a topic, learn a speech, speak without notes, you’ll develop the skill set to adapt should something veer off script. The more familiar you are with a topic, the more you’ll be able to speak to it casually and easily, without the need for notes or a script. And what topic do you know better than you and your business? Practicing public speaking will help you confidently deliver your selling points to any audience, be it one person or twenty. If you need to hone your skills, look up groups or clubs in your area.

Hone Your Pitch

Now, I’m not saying you need a scripted, thirty-second pitch. But sit down and think about how you’d want to be sold if you were the customer or client. Think about how you talk to people. Are you better at the hard sell, pushing a person immediately to the sale? Maybe you prefer to sit down and understand a person’s needs before you sell him or her on your product or skill. Even in industries that seem customer-driven, you need a honed pitch. You might have a million-dollar contract walk in the door, but if you can’t convince them that you’re the best one for the job, you can kiss that contract goodbye. Practice your pitch on friends, family, and trusted colleagues that you can rely on to provide constructive feedback.

Leave Them Wanting More

Elevator pitches are designed to be short. Even the most genuine interest will wane after a certain period of time. Keep your pitch short and sweet, finishing with a call to action rather than spitting information and running away. You want to pique their interest in a way that encourages them to proceed with you but that doesn’t feel like an information dump. Unless you’re walking them through a contract, keep your pitch succinct.


The takeaway: If you need a little bit of guidance on strategy and overall communication, contact us to schedule a consulting session. We’d love to meet you, learn your story, and guide you along the way to conveying that story to those you meet.