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Does Your Elevator Speech Need a Lift?


I live in an area (Washington, DC) where the first question you often hear is, “What do you do?” While it may not always be the first question, at some point it usually comes up. And, I’m sure that’s not unusual in other parts of the country. People are just trying to get to know people they don’t already know.

Do you have an elevator speech? You know, that 30 to 60 seconds or so that explains what you do and will engage the person you are talking with into asking more questions. It’s supposed to be succinct so that you that you could really deliver it in a quick elevator trip.

The problem is that most elevator speeches are boring or long-winded or both. Haven’t you tuned out when someone launched into his or her corporate titles? I remember when I moved some years back, and my new neighbor said, “Hi, I’m Chuck. I’m an attorney.” Yikes! A real conversation starter.

Most of you are creatives and the idea of a set elevator speech is cringe-worthy. After all, elevator speeches can sound so canned and “markety.” Thing is that you have a business and you cannot grow that business if you don’t market.

An elevator speech is one way that you can let people know the real you. Unless potential clients know the real you, they won’t move beyond “potential.” Your goal is to craft a sentence or two that communicates what you do so that your ideal clients can find you and learn more.

Elevator speech basics

Since an elevator speech is simply a pitch about yourself, it often follows a basic formula. “I help [ideal client] get [specified result].” It includes what you do, how you do it, and the results. I think the results are key.

Your speech also needs to get you excited. If it doesn’t, how can you expect it to excite your ideal client?

As you start to work on your elevator speech, you can see the connections to your Big Why and your mission. If you’re stuck with where to start when crafting the speech, go back and consider why you do what you do.

One of your goals should be to have your elevator speech lead to a conversation. Think about a quick story you might add or how you can make the speech relevant to the situation. This will add to the connection you are creating.

Ask yourself what question you want someone to ask as a result.

Your elevator speech also evolves over time, just as you do. You may expand it to include a statement from your clients. That’s the approach I take by adding a sentence that tells you what my clients say about our work together.

Some people think that you need to have a call-to-action with an elevator speech. Most of us aren’t pitching to Shark Tank. We are sharing what we do so that people get to know us better. Some of these people are our ideal clients; some are not. Depending on where the conversation leads, be prepared to have an “ask.” This could be “May I leave my business card with you?” “Could we get together next week so I could talk with you about how I can help you?” “May I send you a copy of my latest book?”

Practice, practice, practice

If you don’t already have an elevator speech, it may seem weird to create one. And, because you are creative, you think maybe you should just wing it in the moment. Why take that chance? You could be standing next to the gallery owner with an opening in her schedule. You come across as unprepared and forget what you want to say. Remember the old saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” No do-overs here. Write something and practice it until it feels comfortable.

One thing to keep in mind is that while you want to deliver this to people who are your ideal clients, that is not always the case. You will be sharing this speech with lots of people who are not your ideal client. What may surprise you is the numbers of people who hear your speech who are only “one degree of separation” away from your ideal client.


Think about how your basic statement of what you do could be improved to start a conversation. With my attorney neighbor, he could have said, “Hi, I’m Chuck. I help local farmers deal with various regulations so they can get their products to market. You’ll meet some of my clients at the local farmers market. Spending time at my grandparents farm always fascinated me and I knew I wanted to work with farmers.” That could have led to an interesting conversation.

Here are some other examples.

Before: I’m a photographer.
After: I share the beauty of our area wildlife with others through my photographs. I’ve been passionate about saving our wildlife since a trip to Alaska when I was 12.

Before: I’m a mixed-media teacher.
After: I help adults reconnect with their playful side through paints, fabric and found articles. Many adults share that this helps them particularly through a difficult time in their lives. A difficult time in my own life led me down this path.

Before: I’m a contemporary landscape painter.
After: I help people find a tranquil escape in their surroundings through my contemporary landscape paintings. Several of my clients talk about the joy and peace they experience in their lives from owning my paintings.

Here’s mine: I help folks craft business success from their creative passions. If you ask them, they’ll tell you I make them think about business differently.

It’s Your Turn!

Please share your elevator speech here. If you want help massaging it, let me know. I love to edit!

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