Elevator Speech (Elevator Pitch)

Definition

The term elevator speech refers to a statement that provides a succinct summary of a product, organization, or an individual's background.  The purpose of an elevator speech is to explain what distinguishes the topic discussed from the competition and to spark the listener's interest.

Explanation

Also known as an elevator pitch, an elevator speech is a brief summary of the speaker's qualifications and skills.  The speech can also be used to describe the value of a company, product, or service.  The speech should be prepared ahead of time.  It should also be practiced as though the speaker was in an elevator, and only had a few seconds of the listener's attention.

An effective elevator speech will follow a prescribed format.  It should be roughly 20 to 30 seconds long, which means it needs to be 90 words or fewer.  In addition to being brief, the speech should be both memorable and interesting.  The dialogue needs to be tailored to the audience, meaning a salesperson attempting to gain the attention of a potential customer will have a much different speech than an individual attending a job fair.

The ideal elevator speech should explain the following:

  • Who:  This is a brief description of a product, service, or a person's background.
  • What:  This is what the product, service, or person has to offer.
  • Why:  This is what distinguishes the product, service, or person from the "competition;" this is their value proposition.

The speech should also end by engaging the listener.  This can be done effectively by asking an open-ended question.  Since an elevator speech needs to convey so much information in such a concise timeframe, the speaker needs to practice until it sounds unrehearsed.

Example

The example below is one that could be used by a job hunter at a career fair; following the above format:

  • Who:  Hi, my name is Haleigh McLane.  I'm a senior studying civil engineering at College University.
  • What:  For the last three years, I've been sharpening my skills by augmenting my coursework with an internship at a local electric utility.
  • Why:  When I graduate, I would like to use the knowledge I've acquired to solve some of the local water supply problems.
  • Engagement:  It's my understanding your organization is one of the largest engineering companies in the world.  Can you explain how my experience would benefit your organization?

Putting it all together (83 words):

Hi, my name is Haleigh McLane.  I'm a senior studying civil engineering at College University.  For the last three years, I've been sharpening my skills by augmenting my coursework with an internship at a local electric utility.  When I graduate, I would like to use the knowledge I've acquired to solve some of the local water supply problems.  It's my understanding your organization is one of the largest engineering companies in the world.  Can you explain how my experience would benefit your organization?

Related Terms

affirmative action, applicant pool, job hunter, networking, retainer search firm, contingency search firm, cronyism