We’ve all been there. You’re at a networking event and you introduce yourself to someone. You say your name, and cannot figure out what to say next. You’ve searched online, but for whatever reason, you cannot seem to remember a creative elevator speech that will get people to notice you and eventually buy whatever it is you’re selling. I want to talk about why an elevator speech is so difficult for so many; and why so many elevator speeches are ineffective at convincing people to want to know more about you.
What’s in Your Head?
Before you ever open you mouth to give an elevator speech, you have a lot of baggage in your brain that you should probably be aware of. Every person is a little bit different. Let me see if one of these thought messages resonate with you.
“I need to get customers fast, or I’ll be fired from my sales position.”
“I’m tired of everyone thinking I’m just a housewife, I want to be a successful business woman.”
“I wish I didn’t have to network or cold-call. I just hate trying to sell something to people… I feel so dirty.”
“My product is terrible, how can I convince people to buy what I’m selling?”
“My wife just left me. There’s no way I can focus on this stupid networking event.”
“I’m a terrible sales person. No one seems to like the stuff I’m selling.”
“Why can’t I sell anything. It seems like everyone else in my multi-level marketing company is doing great.”
I refer to these internal voices as head-trash. We defeat ourselves or stress ourselves out before we ever open our mouths. If you have head-trash, the best way to get rid of it is to simply meditate or pray before any networking event or sales call. Clear your mind of the bad messages and replace them with affirmative messages that give you confidence.
Match Your Speech to the Setting
There are at least three different elevator speeches you should prepare for networking. The first is a 5-second speech that is a simple introduction as you’re shaking someone’s hand. The second is a 30-second speech that should give people some insight into who you are and what benefits you offer a prospective client. The third is a 5-minute speech that talks about what you do, how your product or service is different and why you are passionate about what you do.
Here’s the routine at a bar-filled, after-work, networking event. It is crowded and you see someone all alone who needs someone to talk to. You go over to this lonely person, make eye contact, shake their hand and say, “Hi, I’m Jeff Schuster.” (You obviously don’t use my name… but you get the point). They introduce themselves; and then you ask them, “I’m curious what you do?” (This is the plain-Jane version). They tell you what they do; and you should be listening with interest. I don’t care if their job seems like the most boring job in the world, it is their job; and they’re doing it, so you engage. You should even re-phrase what they told you so that you make sure you understand what they just told you. They will naturally ask what you do as well. If you were listening to them, you will now be able to connect what you do with what they do; so that they will be engaged.
Here’s an example of how I do my speech in this brief moment.
Me: “Hi, My name is Jeff Schuster.”
Margaret: “Hi, I’m Margaret.”
Me: “I’m curious, what do you do?”
Margaret: “I am a dog-walker.”
Me: “That’s amazing. I love dogs. It must be great to be able to spend so much time with dogs.”
Margaret: “It is. That’s what I love about my job. What do you do?”
Me: “I’m a business coach. I help business owners, like dog walkers, make the most of their business ownership experience.”
The key to this quick introduction is that you connect with the other person in a way that is meaningful to you both. Exchange business cards and possibly follow up or be prepared to refer this person. You will obviously have a deeper conversation than this introduction, but this simple, initial message is what you need to prepare prior to your networking event.
If you’re at a large networking meeting with about 30-people, each person will normally be given 30-seconds to 1-minute to introduce themselves. Each 30-Second speech will be quite a bit different for each person; and will not sound anything like the 5-second conversation described above. The stage is yours; and your speech will be a monologue.
You first want to interrupt any prospects in the room to capture their attention. This INTERRUPT is simply a statement that will spark some emotion in those who may be interested in buying your stuff. Let’s say that you’re a realtor. You may say something like “Did you know that over 80% of home buyers in our market are selling their homes for 20% under what most buyers said they would pay?” This is a targeted statement to attract anyone who may be interested in selling their house now or in the future. The next phrase out of your mouth should say why you or your company can solve this problem in a unique way. It may go something like this, “At ACME Realty, we study home buying patterns to ensure our home sellers get top dollar for their house.” Whatever you say after these two statements honestly doesn’t matter. You can say your name; or give some background about why you do real estate; or whatever you want. What most people who attend a networking events fail to understand is that most people at the meeting either need their services or want someone like you to refer their friends. You know what I hear from most realtors at networking events? “Hi, I’m another realtor; and then go on to mention the name of their company and their name… and then add, if you know of anyone who needs a realtor, have them contact me.”
I know this will sound harsh, but, “Why on earth would someone refer their friends to you? They have dozens of realtors they know better than you.”
Your 30-second elevator speech only needs to have two elements: 1) What your customers worry about; and 2) Why you can solve their problem better than anyone else. Once these two statements are heard, you will get referrals because people at your networking event know why to refer their friends to you.
The 5-Minute Speech is a little more involved. Almost no one practices or even knows what they will say in this 5-minute speech because it seems too long. Here’s an outline that may help you:
- Tell your brief life story that says WHY you do what you do.
- Say what your company does, listing specific services
- Say why your product or service is needed by your prospective customers.
- Talk about why what you do is different than everyone else who does what you do.
- Specify the types of clients you are looking for in as much specificity as possible.
It is tough to keep a networking audience engaged for 5-minutes, so do not ramble on about any one of these specific topics. Each topic I described above should take about 1-minute. Also, this outline is my outline; and most will vary quite a bit from this. In 5-minutes, it is normal for unique business owners to create unique 5-minute speeches.
Know, Like & Trust
You have often heard it said that people do business with people who they KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST. This is certainly true. However, what is also true, is that I know, I like and I trust a lot of people I would not buy a thing from. You need to come off as likable in all networking situations. However, you also have to come off as competent, and worthy of someone’s trust in a business relationship.
Think about it. How many family members or friends buy your stuff? I am guessing that your family knows, likes and trusts you, but not in a way that may engender business relationship trust. In fact, they may trust that you don’t know what you’re talking about. That doesn’t mean that you don’t know what you’re talking about… but since family and friends know you in one way, they may doubt you are an expert in a different way.
Most people who give elevator speeches to engender laughter or attention, will get momentary attention and praise; but may not gain long-term business referrals and relationships. Make sure that you convey a message that will uniquely benefit your prospective customers if you want to be referred.
A lot of people get thrust into sales situations and feel like they need to “fake it”. They need to create an image that is attractive to others, rather than being themselves. I don’t care who you are, YOU are good enough for anyone else. Be yourself. If you are selling a product that you don’t believe in, quit and sell something else. If you feel like you are an introvert and cannot talk in front of people, that’s baloney ! It may help you to know that some of the best public speakers in our day are introverts. People in a networking event can smell FAKE a mile away; and so just be yourself… You are GREAT, just the way you are.
Regardless of the amount of time you are given, keep your speech to the time limit. If you don’t practice your speech, you will tend to ramble; and no one likes a rambler. If you speak too long, you have most likely taken time from someone else in your meeting and will engender scorn. If you speak too short, you will not educate the people you are talking to about yourself. Remember, you’re not networking to sell your product, merely to compel someone to get to know you better. The key to meeting times is to practice. Your practice will make you concise, clear, and compelling.
Don’t worry if you mess up your elevator speech. You will have many more opportunities to make this first impression. So, experiment with different speeches to see which ones seem the most genuine to you; and get you the best responses. I don’t think I have used the same elevator speech twice in my networking experiences. Business coaching seems to have so many facets to it, that it’s easy for me to create a different message each time that will be relevant to networking participants.
As a business coach, I offer help in creating compelling marketing messages that attract prospective customers and result in closed sales. If you are interested in learning more about how I can help you, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note from the Author
My name is Jeff Schuster. I am a certified Life and Business Coach serving small business owners, corporate executives and others who want to transition from “expert” to “entrepreneur”. I have been a small business owner for most of my 30-years in the workplace. I grew an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering and construction company from nothing to over $10-million/year and sold it in 2013. I now help other business owners make amazing progress toward their own dreams of business ownership independence and success.