THE BLOG
05/30/2014 04:34 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2014

8 Tips for a Great Elevator Speech

An effective elevator speech is a sales call in a sentence. Do it well and it enhances both your image and your results. If you frequently find yourself stammering and stuttering when you should be selling yourself and your services, consider the following tips:

1. State what you do in terms of a benefit.
Example: "We help salespeople really engage their buyers when they deliver a sales presentation or a written proposal."

2. Make sure your opening benefit has a hook.
The benefit stated as a hook causes listeners to say to themselves: "Oh, yeah? We have problems with that too. I wonder how he/she does that...?" Remember that people don't really care what you do--they care about what you may be able to do for THEM.

3. Add a credibility builder.
The credibility builder may mention well-known clients to establish that others value your services. Consider your track record for credibility builders. You could also mention key results achieved for clients or a certification process that you've "just completed" to accomplish the same effect.

4. Deliver your "speech" as if speaking off the cuff.
Never sound purposeful or canned. The key to a great elevator speech is an "adviser to adviser" delivery rather than a "pitch."

5. Be quotable.
Make it memorable so the other person can pass it along to others who might be interested in what you offer. Before you charge me with contradiction of the previous point about a friend-to-friend delivery, let me elaborate: There should be some phrase in your description of what you do that sums up the essence succinctly.

6. Prefer the vernacular to the jargon of your industry.
Sound as though you're talking to your brother, not a prospective boss or client.

7. Keep it brief -- not more than 15-30 seconds.
Remember that people have attention spans geared to 15-second or 30-second TV commercials. And those employ many screen changes to hold attention. Keep in mind how often you're tempted to flip the channel or leave the room for a snack.

8. End with an open question to engage the other person in a dialogue.
If you just end the "speech," you'll typically get a pleasant nod, a polite "Hmmm," or a "That's nice." And a silence leaves both of you uncomfortable. So take the next step yourself by posing a question to the listener. The person can either respond to you briefly and change the subject if no interest or continue about the challenges you can help him or her meet--ideal.

Elevator speeches more appropriately should be called elevator conversations. They should sound like an exchange that might transpire between two strangers on the way from the first to the fiftieth floor. When the door opens, the person hearing the "speech" should want to linger in the hallway to continue the dialogue.