You DON’T Need An Elevator Speech

There is an old Egyptian proverb: “Your answers tell me how clever you are. Your questions tell me how wise you are.”

Recently an old industry friend emailed me and said she was getting back into the business and was wondering if I would share with her my “elevator” speech. As most of you know, an elevator speech is that memorized little thirty-second or fifty word piece of bait that weʼre supposed to dangle in front of someone when they ask that inevitable question, “So, what is it that you do?” It derives its name from the amount of time you have in an elevator for a conversation. The idea is that you toss them that bait so you can hook ʻem, reel ʻem in and net ʻem before the elevator doors open. Maybe at least be able to exchange business cards and have a warm call to follow.

She was surprised when I told her that I donʼt have one and donʼt really believe in them. Iʼve been to seminars and workshops on how to craft a winning elevator speech and there have been books written on the subject. What I usually hear (and see) is a smug little recitation that sounds like a mission statement and a look on a face that is begging for me to tell them how clever they are. Those who have “crafted” their elevator speech often wait in eager anticipation for the fateful question, “So, what is it that you do?” Then they leave the elevator in disappointment that the fish didnʼt hit the bait. What happened?

The ubiquitous question, “So, what is it that you do?” is the precursor to the equally empty, “How are you?” After youʼve met someone, the “what” changes to the “how” and both questions are usually asked with equal curiosity and sincerity. Perhaps I could create a series of books, speeches and seminars on crafting your answer to “How are you?” (Iʼm just kidding.)

Useful tips to help you get from where you are to where you want to go. Paul Kiewiet, MAS is an industry veteran providing business and life coaching, industry consulting and facilitation, and professional development services through BrandKiwi LLC.
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