January 8th, 2007
Follow the guidelines below and you will have a 30-second pitch that will guarantee that your listeners know what you do, how you can help them and what you want from them. This can be used for your business ideas as well.
What is an Elevator Speech?
An elevator speech is a term taken from the early days of the internet explosion when web development companies needed venture capital. Finance firms were swamped with applications for money and the companies that won the cash were often those that had a simple pitch.
The best were those that could explain a business proposition to the occupants of an elevator in the time it took them to ride to their floor. In other words, an elevator speech that worked was able to describe and sell an idea in 30 seconds or less. Today, an elevator speech can be any kind of short speech that sells an idea, promotes your business or markets you as an individual.
Everyone Should Have an Elevator Speech
You need to be able to say who you are, what you do and how you can help your listeners to improve their business. If you don’t have an elevator speech, people won’t know what you really do. An elevator speech is as essential as a business card.
Know Your Audience
Before writing any part of your elevator speech, get to know your audience. You will be much more likely to succeed if your elevator speech is clearly targeted at the individuals you are speaking to. Having a ‘generic’ elevator pitch is almost certain to fail.
Before you start on your speech, answer the following questions:
- What problems or difficulties are faced by your audience?
- What solutions have they already tried - and failed with?
- Who is your likely competition (if any)?
- What kind of people make up your audience - age. gender, etc.?
- What really drives or motivates your audience?
The more information you have about your audience, the more you will be able to focus in on the material you have which will be suitable for them. The less you know about your audience, the less you will be able to provide them with what they want.
The key to a successful elevator speech is to instantly show you have what the audience wants.
Before you can convince anyone of your proposition you need to know exactly what it is. You need to define precisely what you are offering, what problems you can solve and what benefits you bring to the prospective employers. Answer the following questions:
- What are your key strengths?
- What adjectives come to mind to describe you?
- What is it you are trying to ’sell’ or let others know about you?
- Why are you interested in the company or industry the person represents?
- Where do you see yourself one year from now?
By answering these questions you will now be in a position to work out which of your characteristics will appeal to the audience you described earlier.
Outline Your Talk
It is time to begin writing your answers to the above questions. To do this, start an outline of your material or use bullet points. You don’t need to add any detail at this stage; simply write a few notes to help remind you of what you really want to say. They don’t need to be complete sentences. You can use the following questions to start your outline:
- Who am I?
- What do I offer?
- What problem is solved?
- What are the main contributions I can make?
- What should the listener do as a result of hearing this?
By answering these questions you will be able to build up a set of notes that put your material in the right order.
Finalize Your Speech
Now that you have your outline of your material, you can finalize the speech. The key to doing this is to expand on the notes you made by writing out each section in full.
To help you do this, follow these guidelines:
- Take each note you made and write a sentence about it.
- Take each of the sentences and connect them together with additional phrases to make them flow.
- Go through what you have written and change any long words or jargon into everyday language.
- Go back through the re-written material and cut out unnecessary words.
- Finalize your speech by making sure it is no more than 90 words long.
A good elevator speech will be conversational and will last 30 seconds or less. At three words per second for normal speaking, you need 90 words or less.
Practice Your Material
You need to know your elevator speech by memory. It should come to you as naturally as saying your name; it should be second nature. The only way to achieve this is by efficient and effective practice. Follow these guidelines:
- Read the speech out loud several times.
- Say the speech out loud in front of a mirror.
- Get a friend/spouse/colleague to ask you for your speech and say it several times to them.
- Use the feedback you get to modify your speech if necessary.
- Say your (revised) speech out loud dozens of times until you know it by heart without having to think about it.
Now that you know your speech, you can confidently give it to your listeners. But remember, your speech is highly targeted, so if your audience changes, you will need to format a new speech! It gets easier with practice.
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