How To Master the Elevator Speech
Speaker and consultant Terri Sjodin, author of Small Message, Big Impact: How to Put the Power of the Elevator Speech Effect to Work for You, remembers her first elevator speech. It was two minutes long — the time it took to walk from a potential client's parking space to the front door of the client's building. The potential client was Jim Emery, owner of a large real estate organization called Century 21 Emery, which had 450 sales agents spread across nine offices. Sjodin was hoping to make a pitch in those nine offices about the sales training seminars she was selling. Only Emery, who prohibited outside presenters into his offices, could allow her to do that, and she had two minutes to try to sell him on the idea.
Her two-minute intervention led to an hour-and-a-half meeting with Emery and, eventually, allowed her to reach her sales goals for that cycle. Elevator speeches — three-minute presentations that are cohesive, comprehensive and persuasive can turn into longer presentations, leading to successful and lucrative transactions and even long-term relationships.
The best elevator speeches, Sjodin writes, have three incontrovertible benchmarks: case, creativity and delivery. In three minutes — and sometimes less — the elevator speech must present a persuasive case based on clean, logical arguments and supported by evidence. Creativity in illustrating the talking points of the elevator speech is essential. And, finally, the speech must be presented in the authentic voice of the speaker, not in the drone of a memorized recitation.
In building a persuasive case, structure is important, Sjodin writes. You must be able to cover, in 30 seconds, each of the main parts of a speech — introduction, body with three main points, conclusion and close. Note that "close," which is a call to action, is not the same as "conclusion," which simply wraps up the main points of the speech, she writes.
The elevator speech must also pass the "So what?" test.
In Small Message, Big Impact, Sjodin covers the 10 steps required to develop an effective elevator speech:
1. Know your intention. Know exactly what you want your speech to achieve.
2. Examine your scenario. You need to prepare differently based on whether the opportunity is planned or unplanned.
3. Draft your core outline. Structure the speech — there's no time for rambling.
4. Build your case. Pass the "So what?" test.
5. Don't forget to close. You want your listener to take an action.
6. Get creative. Bring the speech to life.
7. Speak in your own voice. Otherwise, you won't be authentic.
8. Write it out. Start with a long version, then transfer it to index cards.
9. Practice, practice, practice.
10. Use it! Don't keep it in your pocket.
Earning the Right to be Heard
One of the challenges of elevator speeches is getting the opportunity to present them. In some cases, a chance encounter leads to an elevator speech opportunity — one reason Sjodin suggests to her readers to be constantly prepared. Often, however, the reason an elevator speech is required is that the recipient of the speech had earlier refused to grant the time for a lengthier presentation. "You must take action in order to make something happen strategically," Sjodin writes. Emery, who heard Sjodin's first elevator speech, had repeatedly rejected requests for meetings. Sjodin decided to wait at Emery's parking space early one morning with a single white rose and a card that said, "Please give me ten minutes of your time. I definitely believe I have something that will be of interest to you." He gave her two minutes — which was enough to launch the elevator effect.
No matter what their job description or situation, everyone is in some ways a salesperson — selling themselves for a job or a project, selling their ideas or initiatives, selling their convictions. All readers will benefit from the detailed how-to guide that Sjodin offers in Small Message, Big Impact.