The Purpose of an Elevator Speech

The dreaded elevator speech. We all know we should have one in our hip pocket for those opportune moments. So why is it so hard to come up with a good one – and one that people will remember?

Part of the problem lies in our eagerness to do a brain dump in record time. The result is often an audience that flees the proverbial elevator as soon as possible!

So if the purpose of an elevator speech isn’t a recitation of what you do, what is it? The one answer I keep coming back to is this:

The purpose of an elevator speech is to plant a question.

People ask questions only if they’re really interested. An elevator speech should give just enough information to get someone interested – and asking questions.

That’s it. It doesn’t have to be clever, but it does have to be memorable. It only has to do what novelists do at the end of each chapter: present a small cliff-hanger so readers will ask, “And now what?”

My own elevator speech works best when I limit it to a single line: I help businesses discover the stories they didn’t know they had. An extension of this might be and then I help them communicate those stories, but that can come later.

This brief line raises plenty of questions. What do you mean by “stories?” How do you discover stories? Why are stories valuable in the business world? Can you give me an example?

Each question is an opportunity to start a conversation, which is where the heavy lifting gets done in finding if you have a good fit. But in the beginning, all that’s needed is enough information so people will ask for more.

So don’t overload your elevator speech. It’s an invitation to explore further, not bore people with a resume of credentials!

What’s your elevator speech and how is it working for you? Please share!


  1. Linda Heeler June 18, 2015 at 3:52 pm ·

    This is something I have struggled with since I started my coaching practice. Recently, I had an elevator speech that got people’s attention by shocking them but it didn’t bring me any business. I have since gone back to the drawing board and am trying out different ones. I will definitely incorporate your tips. Thanks Joy!

  2. Joy Underhill June 18, 2015 at 6:55 pm ·

    Glad to be of help, Linda! Let me know how it goes for you. If it’s any comfort, I tweak my elevator speech all the time and am never fully satisfied.

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