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Elevating Your Business with your Elevator Speech

By Craig Harrison

Ours is a world with no shortage of ways to promote our businesses, associations, products and services. There are billboards, TV commercials, print ads, web banners, telemarketing, broadcast FAXs, bulk e-mails and even bi-planes trailing signs. (We await word whether banners on city landmarks should be added to this list.)

In this blitz of technologically driven marketing aren't we forgetting something basic? What about good 'ol fashioned "word-of-mouth" marketing? That's when you tell others about your business or service, and they can in turn tell more people. It may be considered old technology but the fact remains, it works.

Introducing...The Elevator Speech

So tell me, what's your "elevator" speech? Do you have a sixteen second sound bite to succinctly introduce yourself, your business, organization or affiliation to others? Does your elevator speech showcase your uniqueness? Does it emphasize the benefits of your deliverables, rather than its features? Is yours memorable?

In the time it takes to ride an elevator with a stranger (16-seconds) you have the opportunity to not only make a great first impression, but to demonstrate your professionalism, position yourself, network and begin to extend your sphere of influence. Are you making the most of your 16 seconds of fame?

Who better than you to speak about what you do…and do it with passion, precision and persuasiveness? YOU are the expert on what you do, why you do it better than your competitors, and how your signature style benefits your customers.

Think about all the potential customers, clients, or future members of your organization you come in contact with each day? When you meet them and they ask you what you do, that's your opportunity to share your pithy sixteen second sound bite, your elevator speech, with them.

Here's one I use for myself:

"Hi. I market confidence! I'm a motivational speaker and trainer who helps others aspire and achieve. Through dynamic keynotes, interactive training and creative off-site events I help audiences communicate with clarity and confidence. Here's my card, let me help transform your world." Here's one I developed for a meeting planner: "They call me the Corporate Concierge…I’m Sandy Simpkins of Meet Me at the Top. I'm a Certified Meeting Professional and, like a good Concierge, I know Who’s Who and What’s What in the Meetings industry. I’m multilingual: I speak the language of Caterers, AV Techs and even CEOs. I can brainstorm, strategize, negotiate and implement every detail of your next event, so you can relax and enjoy it. Working together you’ll be able to say Voila, it’s a success!" Each one takes approximately 16 seconds. Each is delivered conversationally, with a smile and sincerity. The delivery reflects the speaker's personality.

The Anatomy of an Elevator Speech

Let's break each down to its component parts. Both opening lines tantalized. Whether you open with a provocative statement, a bit of mystery or something funny, the objective is to grab a stranger's attention. You've got to draw them in. Starting out by simply stating "I'm a caterer" is great for people taking a census. I challenge you to cast your occupation in its most ennobling light, to captivate your listener. A midwife "brings life into this world" and a nutritionist teaches people "how to behave in front of food." I even know an IRS agent who simply tells people he's a government fundraiser. What is it that you do in your occupation which can capture a stranger's attention? (For a useful tool on casting your occupation in its most ennobling light go to http://www.ExpressionsofExcellence.com/Recast.doc to download a free worksheet.)

Next, some deliverables, also known as features, are mentioned. In my case I mention what I do: keynotes, training and off-sites, to allow people to begin envisioning how my services can be utilized. And I mention the benefits: helping others aspire and achieve, and also helping them to communicate more effectively. That way, they don't have to decipher how 'what I do' can benefit them.

In the case of Sandy, she stresses some features (whose language she speaks) and the benefits (how her handling of negotiations and implementation offload clients' headaches and free them to enjoy the event).

Many elevator speeches end with a question to both involve the listener and glean new information which helps qualify them in the speaker's eyes. A caterer might ask questions about the nature and frequency of special events requiring catering services, or who the company contact is for such services. Questions that can't be answered with just a "yes" or "no" will engender meaningful information to determine whether a good fit exists.

Another tip is to include a take-away: something the stranger can keep of yours to reinforce the new connection just made. Whether it's a business card, a magnet, pin or pen with contact information on it, or other curio item, it goes with them and keeps you in their field of vision thereafter. I knew a man who was turning the world green…one garden at a time (a gardener) whose elevator speech ended when he handed out his business card. What's memorable about that? It was green!

So what are you waiting for? Craft and practice your Elevator Speech. Try it out in the mirror, and among your friends and colleagues. What feedback do they give you? Call your answering machine and leave it for yourself. Now listen to it. Are you confident? Does it flow off your tongue? Is it memorable? The true test comes when you unveil it with strangers. Are they engaged? Do they want to know you better? Are you giving them a clear sense of your deliverables and uniqueness? Tweak yours as accordingly.

When you craft and deliver your sixteen second elevator speech the doors to success will be opening any second!

For more information on helping your staff develop their elevator speech go to http://www.ExpressionsofExcellence.com/elevator_speech.html

To purchase Your Sixteen Second Success, Riding Your Elevator Speech to the Top, click on http://www.ExpressionsofExcellence.com/elevator_booklet.html


Note: This article first appeared in the November, 1999 edition of City News
the National Association of Catering Eexecutives (NACE) newsletter for Northern California.

Professional Speaker Craig Harrison helps audiences push all the right buttons with their elevator speeches. Other offerings help take the chill out of cold calls, and emphasize the role of communication in teambuilding and effective internal/external customer service. Contact him at (510) 547-0664, by e-mail at Craig@ExpressionsOfExcellence.comor connect to his web site: www.ExpressionsofExcellence.com

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