How do I write an impactful elevator speech?

November 25, 2019 | Eileen Petridis


The proverbial elevator speech. Everybody talks about it. And every savvy marketing-oriented company knows it needs one. But how many people or companies actually get it right?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when and where the term “elevator speech” first originated, but the overall concept has been around for a very long time. Often when I begin the onboarding process with a new client, it’s one of the first things that I hear … “We need an elevator speech.”

Perhaps the best way to get started with drafting a great elevator speech is to first understand what an elevator speech is not. It is not a summary of every single service or product your company offers. Nor is it a type of chest beater that’s designed to tout every accomplishment you’ve had. And finally, it’s not a deal closer. It’s unlikely that anyone has ever landed a piece of business simply because they recited their elevator speech.

It is, rather, a brief, clear and consistent message that communicates what your company is, what it does (and why) and why anyone who matters should care. It is designed to create interest in knowing more.

Let’s focus first on the brief part. It’s called an elevator speech because it should be short enough to be recited in roughly 25 to 30 seconds – the time it takes, on average, to ride the elevator. Stated differently, it should typically be less than 90 words. That means only a handful of carefully worded sentences that can easily be memorized. An elevator speech is only effective if it can be recited routinely by any number of people, consistently and with very little variation.

Next, is the “what” part of describing your company. Here, you need to be clear and concise, careful not to get down into the weeds or buried in jargon or overly-used superlatives. Prospects can be quickly turned off with unsupported statements that position someone as the best or the preferred. Rather, look to terms that can be measured or justified, such as the largest or oldest or ranked #1 by a recognizable third party.

When you get to the part about what your company does, avoid the temptation to list out your services. It’s more about the benefit and the “why” of what you do that matters. In the medical field, for example, keep in mind that no one wants to go to the hospital, even if it’s the best hospital with the friendliest staff. They do, however, want to feel better and live longer. If you’re supplying parts to the aviation industry, as another example, prospects don’t need to know that you manufacture 5 kW ram air turbines for various-sized aircraft in the first 30 seconds you’re together. But they will be interested in knowing that your products are specified by Boeing and other leading manufacturers for their ability to keep aircraft flying even if all electrical power is lost or that your designs have been used by NASA because of their superior safety and performance ratings.

The most successful elevator speeches are those that focus on what will benefit the listener. Highlight solutions that are relevant. Be as vivid as possible to capture interest and ensure they want to learn more.

How do you know if your elevator speech is effective? That depends on your purpose. Know, in advance, what you want to gain from the conversation. Do you want to get a referral? A business card? A meeting? Or do you want them to go to your website for more information?

Writing an effective elevator speech is as much an art as it is a science, so make sure that yours appeals emotionally, as well as intellectually, to your prospects.

Topics: Content Marketing media relations corporate communications

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