How To Write Your Elevator Speech
For three years I was privileged to be the Board Chair of a great non-profit, The Stonewall Library & Archives. Anyone who has come in contact with me for more than a few minutes has heard about the library. To say I am passionate about the organization is an understatement. From a great collection that nobody had ever heard of we grew the library into a national showplace, now located in public space adjacent to a public library.
I encouraged my Board of Directors to learn an elevator speech about The Stonewall so that in meeting people either casually or professionally, they would be able to convey the core values of the institution and make people want to know more about it.
I know that at this moment, you are wondering what I’m talking about. Who gives a speech in an elevator anyway? What I mean by an “elevator speech” is a short description of what you do, or the point you want to make, presented in the time it takes an elevator to go from the top floor to the first floor or vice versa.
The idea of an “elevator speech” is to have a prepared presentation that grabs attention and says a lot in a few words. What are you going to be saying? By telling your core message, you will be marketing yourself and/or your business, but in a way that rather than putting people off will make them want to know more about you and your organization.
We have been embedded since childhood to ‘shortcut’ our first impressions by certain key words. One example from my own childhood is introducing a new young friend to my father. While I was interested in how many good new toys he had or if he played baseball, my father would usually ask, “So what does your father do?” How many times do we hear cues like “I just parked my Mercedes” or “I live on the Beach” or “I just broke up with a boyfriend from hell” and we make a snap picture of that person. Imagine if you prepared your first impression to really tell people who you are.
Here is an example of just one of the many Stonewall Library Elevator Speeches
I’m on the Board of the Nations Gay Library; The Stonewall Library & Archives. It is a publicly accessible cultural and educational resource that preserves, interprets and shares the heritage of the LGBT community. We have over 20,000 Gay and Lesbian books in our circulation collection, over five thousand collections in our Archives; and present writing workshops, author readings, and national touring exhibitions. We just moved into a new location at 1300
This would be a great speech if you ran into someone that didn’t know much about the community. Another approach to an Elevator Speech to a person who might be more familiar with the gay community would be:
I work with an organization that is telling the story of Gay and Lesbian life by preserving our literature, music, and motion pictures; The Stonewall Library & Archives. Who better than us to tell that story? We recently partnered with the Broward Library system, and Art Serve to build a new facility more accessible to not only the Gay and Lesbian Community. Through our national touring exhibitions, author readings, and circulating collections, we are preserving and communicating our rich and expanding culture. Our motto is; “If we don’t do it.. who will?”
So why does everyone need an Elevator Speech? When you meet someone at a party, attend an event, a conference, a convention, or some other type of meeting with networking opportunities. You will notice that one of the first questions people ask is, “And, what do you do?” “Oh, I’m a lawyer … or an accountant … or a consultant … or an artist…” It doesn’t matter because they will often say, “Oh, that’s nice,” and that is it. They immediately label you in their mind with all of the stereotypes they perceive those occupations carry with them. However, if you turn your message around and start with an answer like, “I work with small businesses that are grappling with computer problems,” right away — especially if they own a small business — their ears will perk up and they will want to know more. The reason I suggest working on this speech and memorizing it and replacing “What do you do?” with your Elevator Speech. We tend to think of ourselves as “What we do?” rather than “What is our purpose in helping people?”
Here is an example of a work related Elevator Speech highlighting what I’ve said so far.
YOU: Hi, my name is Betty Joiner. I'm responsible for this country's future.
ELEVATOR RIDER: This I've got to hear about.
YOU: I'm a teacher! I love shaping the minds of the next generation, but I'm also interested in getting into