Quit Using the 30-second Elevator Speech!

Years ago, when I was first starting out in sales, I was taught that I needed to have a 30-second elevator speech.  Not just me.  Everybody was taught this. It’s still drilled into salespeople: “Have a clever and concise way of describing you and your business.”   The 30-second speech was originally created in case we suddenly found ourselves in an elevator with our CEO. We would be able to say in 30 seconds who we are, what we do, and what successes we are having. That idea evolved, and it is now a mainstay of salespeople everywhere. It’s a great idea that has gone way off-track, and has become counter-productive.

In today’s business environment, the 30-second speech is a gold standard in networking. We are expected to have at least one, if not many, 30-second speeches to deliver at a moment’s notice at a networking or business event. So, what’s the issue? Simple. These speeches have evolved into contrived communication about who we are and what we do. Most of these are over-prepared, over-rehearsed speeches that miss the target. They don’t connect with the audience. Somewhere along the way, we got so focused on being clever with our words that we forgot we were speaking with a person. The focus of the 30-second speech was us, and not the person we were meeting for the first time.

The next time you go to a networking event, pay attention to how people introduce themselves to you. Do they sound sincere, thoughtful, attentive, interesting? Does what they say encourage you to listen, or do you want to walk away?  I hear a lot of bad 30-second speeches, and I feel sorry for these folks, because I know they have put a lot of time and thought into how they present themselves. But the speeches don’t help people connect. In fact, many times, it’s the opposite. They push people away from us.

We need to be clear and concise in describing who we are, what we do, and how we help others be successful. But we can and must do this in an approachable, conversational way.

So, let’s retire the elevator speech, and stop sounding mechanical. Let’s get rid of the “I solve problems that people didn’t even know they had,” type of speech. It’s time to re-connect with people. Yes, we still have to be compelling and passionate about who we are and what we do.  We just need to do it in a way that is conversational, not robotic.