How to write an elevator speech

Our public relations director came by my office recently with a prospective volunteer board member. As part of the introduction, the director asked me to outline my role, in 30 seconds or less. Well… I hemmed, hawed, and took about 90 seconds to stammer out a rambling answer.

Time to write an elevator speech.

What is an elevator speech?

An elevator speech is a brief description of what you do, or a point you want to make, delivered in the time span of an elevator ride (say, thirty seconds or 100-150 words).

Why use an elevator speech?

It is important to be able to quickly introduce an organization, product, service, etc. to potential stakeholders. You only have a few moments to make a first impression. Investing time in developing and rehearsing an elevator speech can make the difference between gaining a new customer/supporter and walking away empty-handed.

What are the key elements of an elevator speech?

Your elevator speech should have three elements:

  1. Who you are?
  2. What you do?
  3. How you do it?

Three steps to take when developing your elevator speech:

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare – This is a short speech that needs to sounds like it’s being delivered off-the-cuff. That means you need to put a lot of work into writing and editing. Then, once you’ve completed the process, go back and edit some more.
  2. Practice, practice, practice – Know your speech well enough so you express your key points without sounding as though the speech was memorized. Let it become an organic. Practice in front of mirrors and role-play with friends
  3. Tell a story – Avoid a dry recitation of facts. Listeners will retain more of what you tell them if you share a story.

Three things to avoid with your elevator speech:

  1. A speech that sounds canned – If you recite something you’ve memorized, you run the risk of sounding stilted and unnatural.
  2. Avoid jargon –Keep it simple. Avoid using terminology that is meaningless outside of your industry or organization.
  3. Rambling – Being familiar with your speech will help keep on track.

Next time I’m asked, I’ll be ready.