Stop the elevator speech, I want to get off!

| By: Angie Winschel
Angie Winschel

Ever since my first advertising and marketing courses in college, I’ve been told about the mythical elevator speech. You know, what if you’re lucky enough to ride a couple floors on an elevator with someone who would absolutely buy your product/support your organization/donate to your cause if only you had the right 10 seconds worth of words to convince them before they get to their floor!! And we all agree—oh yes, I need a 10 second comprehensive overview speech. And then we go through this agonizing process of paring down what we do into two sentences, making it quick, getting in all of our key words and messages. And what do we get?

Usually, something pretty generic. After we carve away all the things that we just can’t fit into those constraints, we are left with the basics: “I’m a development director for an amazing non-profit that serves women and children in crisis”, “My company provides top-notch data-driven research for organizations of all sizes”. Hmmmm….anybody ready to buy or donate?

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of brevity, I think it encourages people to cut away the fluff and get down to their own “big idea”—what’s the difference you make in the world? What I don’t like is the notion of the speech, a one-way communication that builds no connections or relationships.

I say, instead of the elevator speech, tell a story. It doesn’t have to have elements of everything you do, but it does have to be INTERESTING. It needs to have emotion, be memorable, and share how your product or organization has impacted a life—it should be a story that will “stick”.

No one has ever shared with me, “Hey, today I met a development director whose non-profit serves women and children in crisis.” But I have been told stories of doctors who go to Haiti to save starving kids, and volunteers who go out every day for 20 years to feed stray dogs, and companies that give away a pair of shoes for every pair I buy. And I want to know more about those stories and people.

If you tell an interesting story on the elevator, even though your fellow riders won’t know your organization’s key messages, I’ll bet you they’ll ask you some questions, maybe have a conversation so that you can communicate those key points. They’ll probably look up your website….and tell someone else the cool story they heard today on the elevator.