Time to retire the term “elevator speech” from the job seekers lexicon.
Does it really work for job seekers? Isn’t a “speech” about 30 or 40 minutes? Most elevators are very short rides here in California.
So what is the standard definition?
“An elevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply defines a person, profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.
The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes. The term itself comes from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator. If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, the conversation will continue after the elevator ride or end in exchange of business card or a scheduled meeting”.
Who uses it successfully today?
I have listened to project managers and salespeople use elevator pitches to get their point across quickly. They typically know their audience and can make a short “pitch” for an idea or product. For them, it is a powerful tool.
But the elevator speech does not and cannot work this way for the job seeker.
At many networking events and meetings, I was privy to listening job seekers using their “elevator speech”. All were off the mark. Many sounded the same. Many were quite boring and forgettable. Most came off as trying to sell themselves. And I sensed a great frustration in their voices.
What does work?
Lets’ set up a scenario:
You are at a networking meeting. A total stranger starts to initiate a conversation with you and they ask what is your name and what you do.
Giving your name is the easy part. (You get 2 points for this right answer)
You would respond with a personal branding statement. It’s a statement that says in general what your impact is on organizations. It starts off with the first person singular, followed by a verb and an object or objects. Maybe 3 out of 10 people will be “intrigued” and ask “how” you do this or “what do you mean?” The other 7 it will fall on deaf ears. Find out more about personal branding and download the PowerPoint (scroll down).
Your response would be “Well, I would like to give you a short (2 minute) story that illustrates what I do”. You would use the classic and ubiquitous “SAR” to structure the story: “This was the Situation”; “this was the Action that I took” and “these were the Results”.
You are memorable and unique because of the brand and the story. If they have no interest in what you think is important and critical, then there is probably no basis for a relationship. Move on to the next person.
However, you may discover that the other person is genuinely interested in the brand and what you achieved – opening up the conversation to explore further what you both have in common.
But you have to start with you. What do you stand for and what do you deliver? Most of us respond positively to focus, confidence and high self-esteem.
But please, don’t call it an elevator speech.
How about: Stand and Prove?