Ask the Experts

Floor them with your elevator speech

FROM STAFF REPORTSNovember 19, 2012 

Q: What is an elevator speech, and what are some tips for creating one that promotes my product or small business?

Imagine actually being in an elevator with someone you want to impress. You won’t have much time: perhaps only 10-30 seconds to get them interested, notes Rick Dameron of the University City Toastmasters.

“You need to hit on exactly what you’re doing,” said Dameron, who heads the local chapter of the worldwide organization that helps members develop public speaking and leadership skills. “It needs to be something that makes them more interested in learning about you from the professional side.”

At the same time, you don’t want your listeners to think simply – that’s great – and then walk away. As co-owner of the Charlotte Speed Demons, Dameron has experience with making intriguing pitches to potential sponsors. “They’re not going to give you 10-15 minutes to tell them what you’re looking for,” he said. To entice listeners, “we always talk about the fact that we’re helping women athletes excel.”

Here are other strategies from Dameron and from Linda Kappauf, who works with job seekers as director of human resources development at South Piedmont Community College, with campuses in Monroe and Anson counties:

Leave out the lingo. Don’t use acronyms, big words or phrases specific to your field, Kappauf said. “You’re much better being natural and using plain English, what most people understand.”

Be ready in case you can’t speak. Students working the competitive career-fair circuit typically find themselves in rooms with hundreds of job seekers – and everyone’s trying to make an impression, Kappauf said. So students will put an elevator speech of sorts on the back of their contact cards. This could be a quick career history – something like twelve years of experience as an administrative assistant in the allied health field.

Be confident. If you think through your speech in advance, you’ll be confident enough to tell prospective clients and customers what services you can provide for them, Kappauf said.

Practice, practice, practice. Ryan Avery, a 25-year-old Toastmaster from Portland, Ore., became the youngest world champion of the organization’s public speaking contest this year. As part of his preparation, he visited many chapters of the group and received over 1,000 evaluations on his speech, “Trust is a Must.” He used that feedback to rewrite and polish his speech, Dameron said.

Others will get in front of a video camera, or practice in a mirror, to see what image they project. “Practice makes perfect,” Dameron said. “Just get as much feedback as you possibly can.”

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