An effective elevator speech either confirms or destroys your image as an executive — not to mention affecting your results. It should be brief (15-30 seconds), pithy, quotable, listener-focused — and should appear to be off the cuff.

Your elevator speech tells people what you do, who you do it for, and what benefit you can deliver. It's a sales call in a sentence. If you frequently find yourself stammering and stuttering when you should be selling yourself and your services—and you have only seconds to do so—consider the following 8 tips for a great elevator speech.

1. State what you do in terms of a benefit.

Example: "We help salespeople really engage their buyers when they deliver a sales presentation or a written proposal."


2. Make sure your opening benefit has a hook.

The benefit stated as a hook causes listeners to say to themselves: "Oh, yeah? We have problems with that too. I wonder how he/she does that…?” Remember that people don't really care what you do—they care about what you may be able to do for THEM.


3. Add a credibility builder.

The credibility builder may mention well-known clients to establish that others value your services. Consider your track record for credibility builders. You could also mention key results achieved for clients or a certification process that you've "just completed" to accomplish the same effect. Example: "Our clients—such as IBM, ExxonMobil, and Frito-Lay—tell us that one of the hardest things for their salespeople to do is actually engage their prospects when they’re delivering a sales proposal."


4. Deliver your “speech” as if speaking off the cuff.

Never sound purposeful. That is, take care that you don’t sound canned in your phrasing. Work in some conversational glitches. Stumble on a word, use a colloquial phrase, or bridge from the conversation at hand with a spontaneous segue into your speech. The key to a great elevator speech is an "advisor to advisor" delivery rather than a "sales pitch." To pull that off, you have to give careful attention to your phrasing, speaking rate, demeanor, tone, and body language. They all provide context to make the message sound as if you’re talking friend to friend.


5. Be quotable.

Make it memorable so the other person can pass it along to others who might be interested in what you offer. Before you charge me with contradiction of the previous point about a friend-to-friend delivery, let me elaborate: There should be some phrase in your description of what you do that sums up the essence succinctly: You might deliver your memorable quote in a casual way like this: “I often tell clients that when they need to talk to the top brass, our presentation programs open the door. How well do your people do that in the C-suite—talk to the top brass, I mean?”


6. Prefer the vernacular to the jargon of your industry.

Sound as though you're talking to your brother, not a prospective boss or client.


7. Keep it brief—not more than 15-30 seconds.

Remember that people have attention spans geared to 15-second, 30-second, and 60-second TV commercials. And those employ many screen changes to hold attention. Keep in mind how often you’re tempted to flip the channel or leave the room for a snack.


8. End with an open question to engage the other person in a dialogue.

Example: "How difficult do you or your employees find it to do X around your office?" If you just end the “speech,” you’ll typically get a pleasant nod or polite “Hmmm” or “That’s nice.” And a silence leaves both of you uncomfortable. So take the next step yourself by posing a question to the listener. The person can either respond to you briefly and change the subject if no interest or continue about the challenges you can help him or her meet—ideal.


Elevator speeches more appropriately should be called elevator conversations. The point is that they should be something that sounds like an exchange that might transpire between two strangers on the way from the first to the fiftieth floor. When the door opens, the person hearing the “speech” should want to linger in the hallway to continue the conversation.

Author's Bio: 

Dianna Booher, an expert in effective communications, founded Booher Consultants in 1980. Dianna has written more than 40 books in the fields of business communication and productivity. Her latest books include Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader and Communicate with Confidence, Revised Edition. As a high-caliber keynote speaker who inspires audiences worldwide, Dianna delivers focused speeches and training programs to address specific communication challenges.