I sit on the Board of Directors for a local organization. The other day, an email flashed into my inbox from the Executive Director letting us know that an upcoming speaker had fallen through. With less than a week until the event where that speaker was to appear, we were thrown into an instant brainstorming session about how we could fill that time and still make it worthwhile to everyone who had already bought their ticket and continue to sell more tickets. So, we started tossing around ideas for how to fill the time productively.
One idea was to give everyone a little longer to talk about their business. I instantly cringed at this idea. Can you imagine much worse in a networking setting?
Sure, sitting in a room filled with hungry professionals is exciting.
But sitting in the room listening to those hungry professionals stand with a microphone and uncomfortably beg for business sounds like torture and it feels a little something like this…
That’s because the bulk of professionals don’t know how to sell what they do in a way that makes people lean in and listen.
I know because I’ve been to events like this before. I’ve been in the room when people take their 30-seconds of promo time and turn it into an uncomfortable speech about how great they are and ALL THE WAYS they can help EVERYONE in attendance that day. I’ve listened to realtors tout their ability to sell fast and sell high. I’ve heard financial advisors promise good returns more times than I can count. I’ve listened to insurance agents talk about the looming dangers and the importance of having coverage. All of that is well and good, but it’s also boring.
There are only a handful of people whose elevator speeches I remember and those people all had one thing in common – they were interesting.
Does Your Elevator Speech Sound Something Like This?
At a seminar a few years ago, I heard a speaker encourage the audience to shorten up their elevator speech. He suggested keeping it to seven words or less. The first three words should be “I help people…”
I have lukewarm feelings about this approach for many reasons.
Here’s the positive. It’s simple. It’s concise. And, it’s *usually* clear. For example, realtors can say, “I help people buy and sell homes.” Financial advisors can say, “I help families save money for retirement.” Insurance agents can say, “I protect people in case of an emergency.”
All are accurate and quick to digest. And, when used in the right setting, they can spur the conversation forward into discussing the opportunities to collaborate. For example, if you’re a new mom starting to think about retirement, your next question to the financial advisor might be, “where do I start?”
They’re also easy to remember and regurgitate. You don’t have to sit there and fumble through an uncomfortable script. You can internalize seven words enough so that they roll off the tongue and sound a little more natural.
There’s just one big, glaring problem with this approach. It’s drier than the Sonoran Desert.
The speaker was right in that the concise nature of these 7-word elevator speeches make it so you can move forward in the conversation faster. But, they’re not designed for any event where you need to stand out and be remembered – and let’s face it, that’s EVERY event you attend. There’s absolutely nothing unique or memorable about any of those statements. And when the next person stands up with the microphone, those seven words will soon be forgotten.
To be forgotten is not why we invest our time at networking events or spend our hard earned money just to get in the door. We’re there to be remembered, to earn business, and to win over the hearts of the people who are there. We’re there to get people to pay attention!
Flipping Your Elevator Speech On Its Snoozefest of a Head
So what the heck are you supposed to do? You want to stand out. You want to be remembered. But you also have to be clear about what you have to offer, so people know why they should reach out to you.
It’s tricky, which is why so many people struggle with it. Here are my two tips for fine tuning your elevator speech and making people finally listen to what you have to say (because dammit, you deserve to be heard).
1. Get Specific
The problem with the supposed “crystal clear” 7-word elevator speech is that it’s actually pretty vague when you think about it. Those 7 little words can’t adequately express what a person’s world looks like after they’ve worked with you. They can’t visualize the end result.
Sure, the realtor sells homes, but how quickly? How much will you get for your beloved home? Why is she different from the 500 other realtors in your area?
Sure, the financial advisor helps you save for retirement, but how much will you save? Enough to buy a toy-hauler filled with jet skis and ATVs, so you can take your grandkids camping with you and make some pretty incredible memories?
Sure, the insurance agent offers protection against disaster, but what kind of disaster? And how much will it cost you each month? And if we’re really honest, will they be there for you when you need them during that disaster, or will you be waiting months to get money while begging family members for help to get by when you’re unexpectedly left out in the cold?
These are the types of thoughts that trigger emotion. They’re also the thoughts that are going through your buyer’s heads when they’re considering contacting you. So, to stand out from everyone else in your industry, it’d serve you well to answer them head on in your elevator speech. Get specific with the tangible outcomes your audience can expect from you.
Or, in other words, give ’em a reason to remember you.
2. Don’t Make It About You At All
This is my favorite approach because it’s easy to remember, natural to say, and it immediately gets the person/people thinking about the benefits of working with you.
Don’t make your elevator speech about you at all.
Instead of saying what you do, turn the table back on the person listening and ask a question. Start with, “Have you ever…” and pose a question with the biggest problem you solve.
For example, the realtor might say, “Have you ever thought about what it’d be like if your house sat on the market for months rather than days?”
The financial advisor might say, “Have you ever thought about what you’d do with the money if you won the lottery?”
The insurance agent might say, “Have you ever thought about who you’d call first if your house flooded?”
Then, let the speech flow from there. Get specific about how you help people.
There’s a reason why I’ve given this so much thought and practice. I own a copywriting and content marketing agency. That’s not easy to describe in a few words, and it’s usually not something that’s quick to understand or digest. Everyone’s heard of realtors, financial advisors, and insurance agents. And yes, many people have heard of copywriters but most people don’t *really* know what we do. So, I’ve had to get good at turning an elevator speech into something that makes sense to the person listening. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
Have you ever looked at your website in frustration, wondering why no one’s calling? I help savvy entrepreneurs turn their website into a magnet for new customers by telling a better story.
Or this (depending on who I’m talking to and my business goals for the quarter):
Do you ever look at your email open rates and feel stumped as to why they’re so low? I help SaaS companies make more from their funnels with subject lines and stories that’ll get people excited to upgrade from a free to a paid user.
These are WAY more specific than saying I write words that sell (an elevator speech I’ve used in the past without success). They talk to a specific audience, answer a specific problem, and show how I help solve it.
Last tip before you head off to your next networking event – don’t memorize your elevator speech!
No one likes listening to a robot (including my 1-year old son if you can believe it). People want to work with people and that starts by speaking to each other like you would a colleague, friend, or family member. Instead of memorizing verbatim what you’ll say, memorize the formula you just learned.
Pose a question with a common problem your audience has. Then, say, “I help…” and fill it in with specifics.