Remember back in the 7th grade when you had to give that speech in class? Yeah, you remember—it’s the one that had your knees buckling, hands shaking, palms sweating, and voice stammering.
The boombox beat of your heart nearly drowned out the words coming from your mouth, but you still managed to hear the snickers from your delighted peers (who were eagerly waiting for you to fail) that reverberated off the tile floors.
It was terrible, right? It was the worst day of your life and you swore that you’d never put yourself through that again.
You have (for some insane reason) agreed to deliver your elevator speech at the next KBA luncheon. You’ve got to stand up in front of two hundred of Kennesaw’s most esteemed business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders, and you’re scared out of your mind.
What do you do? Well, there are two choices: A) back out, or B) just do it
Let me tell you why you should choose answer “B” and how you can not only “just do it” but do it with gusto.
When You Speak, They Will Listen
Remember the movie with Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams? He was compelled to do something as crazy as destroying his farm to build a random baseball field. And he didn’t even play baseball! But as soon as the field was complete, people started to show up. The underlying theme was that if you make room for something, have faith, and go for it, a positive result will naturally follow.
The same theory applies to the Kennesaw Business Association. Every single person attending that luncheon wants you to succeed, is interested in your business, and is rooting you on. Despite your 7th-grade experience, this group is waiting for your success, not for your failure.
The audience is on your team, and you should know from the start that no matter how you end up doing, you will get an applause. So why not go for it?
After you speak, you’re likely to meet several people who have a mutual interest in your field or who just want to talk.
Networking is everything, and the chance to tell so many people about your business is priceless.
But to go for it, you must have something to say and a plan for delivery. So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of giving an elevator speech.
Plan in Advance:
Now, let’s suppose that you never had a terrible 7th-grade moment and that you’ve always considered yourself good at “winging it” under pressure. You’re a smooth talker and have never had to plan your speeches at family weddings and social gatherings. Well, forget all that.
DO NOT–UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES–WING IT.
No matter how accomplished you are in your field, your credibility will plummet if you stand up to speak about your company and have nothing to say. Think about it: there’s an implied conversation going on that’s louder than the words coming through over the mic.
If you didn’t plan, you didn’t think the audience deserved a polished presentation. And if you didn’t think the audience deserved your best, that audience won’t feel that you’re their ideal client or partner or colleague. So plan, be as prepared as you can, and know that what you say in 60-seconds matters. A lot. Continue reading for your guide to a fantastic elevator speech.
The Stages of Preparation
Identify Your Business Value and How You Can Help Your Audience:
An effective elevator speech is going to leave the audience wanting to know more about your business. A GREAT elevator speech will leave them wanting to hire you or purchase your product.
But before you can get to that point, you must take some time to think about the true value that you have to offer. We all know that a successful business is all about the customer. So how can you help others?
- Identify the primary service that your business offers. Describe the service in a clear, attention-grabbing statement (much like the title or sub-title of a website).
- Write down 3-5 primary ways that your product or service fills a pressing need. (Keep your KBA audience in mind. If the KBA is not your primary audience, you may want to include that in the speech.)
- Beside the value you’ve written down, define why your business is better than the competition and why you feel that others should hire you instead of someone else.
Practice Talking About Each Element that You Identified Above:
Knowing something and being able to talk about it are two different things entirely. Before you can speak in front of others, you must be able to clearly explain every element of your business when you’re alone.
When you stammer or hesitate, you know you’ve reached a part of your business model that you need to revisit and refine. Remember, you have only 60 seconds to tell the audience about your entire business. What do you really want to say?
Once you have done this exercise a couple times, start timing yourself. Chances are, you’re taking upwards of 3 minutes to talk about all the great things your business has to offer.
So here comes the next CRITICAL part.
Keep Practicing Your Speech, Cutting Out Extra Verbiage:
Use your phone to time yourself and do NOT cut yourself any slack. 60 seconds is 60 seconds, and you’ll be timed on the day of your actual speech.
If you’re wondering how to do that, think about this: all elevator speeches must have the following elements:
- Attention-grabbing beginning
- Middle that explains your business model, needs, value, and promise
- Ending call to action
- Gratitude for being allowed to speak
You might write each section out and memorize it, or you may choose to just keep repeating it. Whatever works best for you, just make sure that you keep practicing until you can practically recite it in your sleep.
Practice, Practice, and Practice Some More:
Do you remember those high school assignments when you had to memorize something, so you started your studying the night before, and you thought you had it nailed only to forget EVERYTHING the day of the exam or speech?
Yes, we’ve all had those. But for the elevator speech, do NOT let this happen.
Instead, practice every day. In the car, in the bathroom, in front of your kids, your husband, the checkout lady, your tennis friends, etc. You’ll soon find that what you thought you had memorized an hour ago, you’ve half-forgotten.
It’s called muscle memory, and the brain is the same as any other muscle. So practice until you can say those 60-second words in ANY situation, and when you can do that, you’re ready. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your family and friends for feedback. When I did my speech, my 14-year-old surprisingly gave me great advice. He had no idea what I was doing, but he knew what sounded good.
Dress for Success and Play the Part (Even if You’re Nervous):
After all the work you’ve done to prepare, the day has finally arrived. It’s time to WOW the crowd with your sales pitch.
So dress up. Feel GREAT in your skin. Eat a good breakfast (because you won’t be eating lunch, believe me) and mentally gear up. Believe that you can do it, that the members of the audience are rooting for you, and that your business is depending on you!
And remember – you’re in the home field. Everyone wants you to succeed. Practice one more time and then get up there and do your best.
And keep in mind, you are in business to help others, so all you have to do is tell them how you can offer that assistance.
Written by Elizabeth Jamison, Ph.D. ~ Elizabeth is the owner of Jamison Content Solutions, LLC and teaches English at Kennesaw State University.