Many entrepreneurs cringe when they hear, ‘elevator speech’.

I admit, it’s not a term I like either. ‘Elevator pitch’ is even more cringe-worthy.

The reasons go deep.

First of all, it’s hard to put yourself out there. You’re making yourself vulnerable about a business you love. You never know what kind of reception you’ll get.

Second, as a way to present your business, it has shortcomings. You have to condense what’s great about what you do into a sentence or two. According to a recent study, the average adult’s attention span is just 8 seconds, so you have to make it good to capture people’s attention.

Third, so many of us are just plain bad at it.

The purpose of an elevator speech is to share what you offer, boiled down to its essence. The person listening may be your ideal audience, so it’s worth spending time to make your elevator speech a good one.

The thing is, you’ll always be meeting strangers, before they become friends. And some of them could become your best clients.

So let’s pay attention to the key mistakes that people make with their elevator speeches, so that you can move past them to more productive territory.

In honor of our 8-second attention spans, here are 8 common mistakes that many people make when they introduce themselves and their business in an elevator speech, and the fix that solves the problem.

Mistake #1: You’re talking features, not benefits.

Your audience really doesn’t care what your business does or how you do it. That may feel like a blow, but it’s true. They care what it can do for them. So, focus your few seconds of attention on what is most important from their perspective.

The Fix: Look at your business from the perspective of your clients. Reword the features of your business into the benefits, on what you can do for them.

Mistake #2: You wing it.

Not practicing your elevator speech is a big mistake. Stumbling through it gives a very poor initial impression.

The Fix: You’ll only feel comfortable with your elevator speech once you’ve said it many times, and the place to start is with practice. So practice!

Share with your mirror at first. Then corral a few friends you trust or your partner to practice on at first. If they are also your ideal audience, listen to their feedback and make adjustments. When you feel more comfortable, take it out on the road with new people. Just take care not to over-rehearse. Keep it fresh.

Mistake #3: Your expectations are too high.

The goal of an elevator speech is to stimulate interest. The best outcome you can have is for someone say, ‘Tell me more.” That’s it. It’s an invitation to elaborate further.

The Fix: Adjust your expectations. No one will be pulling out his or her wallet after your elevator speech. You will, however, be invited to have some great conversations with people who are interested in what you offer.

Mistake #4: It’s too long.

Remember what I said about the average attention span of an adult being 8 seconds? You have very little time in which to express what you do. If you’re too wordy, it dilutes your key message.

The Fix: After writing out what you do, be really strict with yourself in cutting that down to the bone, so that it shares only what you need people to know. What one sentence sums up what you do? Distill your business down to its essence. What’s at the heart, the core of what you do? This will take you some time, so be prepared to invest both time and effort.

Mistake #5: You assume it will be easy.

It’s just one sentence, maybe two, right? How hard could this be? It’s actually much more difficult to distill something down than it is to talk at length.

Also, especially if you’re an introvert, you may always find it challenging to put yourself out there with strangers. It may never feel easy.

The Fix: Spend the time and effort needed to condense what you do down to its essence. And work on getting comfortable with the discomfort – it’s an edge that is worth going to, again and again, in service of what you can offer to people who really need it.

Mistake #6: You never change your elevator speech.

Once you have an elevator speech that feels right, you’re comfortable with, and has led to really good conversations, it’s tempting to just keep it. The important question always is, does it accurately reflect your business? Your business will grow and change. Your elevator speech has to change right along with it.

The Fix: When your business goes through a change, revisit your elevator speech. Does it still express what’s most important about your business? If it doesn’t, take the time to adjust it so that the next people you meet hear the truth of your business, right now.

Mistake #7: You are using your elevator speech for cold calling.

Cold calling is a very low ROI (return on investment) activity. The expectation that an elevator speech will warm up a cold prospect is a setup for rejection.

The Fix: Instead of cold calling, spend your energy on warming up your prospects by building relationships and following up on referrals. Even when you’re in a networking situation, you’ll have a better chance of making an impression if someone who knows the person is introducing you.

Mistake #8: You think an elevator speech is about selling.

Your elevator speech is not designed to make a sale. Putting pressure on yourself to sell with your elevator speech just makes connecting more difficult.

When you are first introducing yourself, your first goal is to make a connection. The person may not turn out to be a prospect, but they may be able to connect you with others who are.

That said, you’ll do best if you don’t have a transactional approach. You are sharing something important about yourself, what you love to do, with someone you’re just meeting for the first time.

The Fix: Your elevator speech is about making a connection. Focus on that and the other person will sense it. People are put off by those who want something from them. Take the longer view and just make it about connecting with another human being.

Elevator speeches are a source of dread for many entrepreneurs. You don’t have to be one of them. The fixes in this article will help you to move into greater ease and comfort with this valuable tool.

When you make your message clear, your ideal prospect will instantly recognize that you are someone they want to get to know. That’s a great basis for connection.

Author's Bio: 

Ursula Jorch, MSc, MEd, mentors entrepreneurs starting their businesses and seasoned entrepreneurs in transition to create the business of their dreams. Her coaching programs provide knowledge, support, clarity, inspiration, and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs to empower you to reach your goals. Start with a free guide and other valuable info at This article was originally published at and has been syndicated with permission.