(Excerpt of "Promoting Your Practice in 60 Seconds or Less: Mastering the Elevator Speech" By Lillian Clementi
So I’ve made it to the networking event—I’ve even remembered to bring some business cards—and I’m starting to peek out from behind the potted plant when a friendly stranger makes eye contact and asks, “So what do you do?” Or I’ve settled into my corner seat and suddenly the moderator says, “I’d like to go around the room so that we can all introduce ourselves.”
Now what? What is an Elevator Speech
Short and Sweet
A brief summary of who you are and what you offer as a professional in 30- to 60-second elevator ride. A good elevator speech is only about 90 words long. It’s a succinct, readymade introduction that you can use at networking events, at the bus stop, on airplanes, or in any other encounter when you only have a few seconds to make a connection.
Here is my elevator-speech-in-progress:
“I’m Lillian Clementi, and I help people over the language barrier. I’m the principal of Lingua Legal, a translation practice specializing in French and German. I provide translation and foreign-language document review to select clients in law and business.”
“Hi, my work makes your business shine in Spanish. My name is Maria Esposito, and I’m the owner of Esposito Translation. I specialize in transferring English business materials into clear, readable Spanish to help you reach your target audience.”
How to Prepare the Elevator Speech.
1. Focus on the listener. “Make sure you’re sharing something that benefits the listener—not what you do, but what they get out of it.” So you might have different versions depending on what sort of events you attend. For example, at a chamber of commerce function, I might say, “I help people over the language barrier,” but at a bar association function, I might say, “I help law firms take the pain out of foreign-language documents.”
2. Use a vivid image. For example, “I’m with the Allergy and Asthma Network. We save lives.” One can immediately picture a child with a peanut allergy going into anaphylactic shock. For a translator, the vivid image might be: “I make your business shine in Spanish.” “I help non-English speakers get the medical care they need.” Find one that works.
3. Keep it brief. The shorter, the better.
4. Don’t worry about making it perfect: write the best imperfect elevator speech you can and start using it. A certain amount of trial and error is inevitable: that’s fine. Just get started. Once you have your elevator speech on paper, make the most of it. You may be surprised to discover just how versatile it can be, and how many doors it will open.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
Say your elevator speech aloud until you can deliver it comfortably in any situation. There are plenty of opportunities to practice: with a friend, a family member, the dog; in your car on the way to a networking event; in the shower; while you cook dinner; during a stroll in the park. Practice your elevator speech “until you own it.” Getting your mouth around it helps you get comfortable, and makes it easy to recognize anything that feels wrong. “I always practice mine out loud right before a networking event,” “You can’t over-practice.” A fine-tuned elevator speech is only one component of the marketing toolkit, but at least you know exactly what to say when the elevator goes ding.
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