What's More Effective than an Elevator Speech

Sheila Murphy
March 15, 2023

Have you ever been stuck at a cocktail party where someone drones on and on about themselves?  

Of course, you have. It happens at almost every networking event we have attended.

And what do we do? 

We tune out. All we hear is WAH, WAH, WAH like an adult speaking in a Charlie Brown cartoon, and we start looking for an exit strategy.

Unfortunately, many of us have been taught to give our elevator speeches. An elevator speech highlights how wonderful we are in the time it takes you to ride an elevator. And they don't work.

These are ineffective because:

  • We cram so much into them
  • They are usually boring
  • They are only about us
  • We sound rehearsed and inauthentic

So what should you do instead? In a perfect world, you would learn about the person you are talking to and hone your conversation to what matters to them. Because when you do that, they listen and remember you.

If that is not the case, I want you to develop a few go-to stories or hooks that intrigue the person. For example, before becoming a corporate deal lawyer, I got my best experience herding cats the summer I worked as... Or my clients say, I am the litigator to call when things get real, and things have gotten too real for many of them.

Why do you want to do this? Because people do not remember BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. They remember stories and hooks.

And here is the big hint - you don't want to tell the whole story. You want to intrigue your listener and have them ask you questions. You want to engage in conversations. Because when you engage in an exchange, you are more memorable.

Instead of a speech, you want 3-7 bullet points to work into the conversation. The bullet points should focus on why you are an ideal hire or person to promote or get to know.

The key is to dialogue back and forth because you want to engage the other person and learn about them so that you know what bullet points to use and how to spin them.

And again, you should use a storytelling format to illustrate why you are the right person for them. So, one exercise to do in advance of events is to take those bullet points and think about a story or hook for each.

If you engage in interesting conversations with someone where you do not just focus on yourself, you are much more likely to create a favorable impression that can be built on in the future. People remember how you make them feel and how you can help them - not inauthentic grandiose speeches about themselves, even if you can say it in under a minute. 


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