Creating a Memorable Elevator Speech

Elevator Car Talk

Crafting a Memorable Elevator Speech

by Nolan Crabb

The term “elevator speech” has been around for years. We have a basic idea what they are. They’re named based on the idea that you should be able to deliver a memorable and brief description of what you offer in the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator several floors - between 30 seconds and two minutes.

The concept has been around for years. Inventors and others who sought venture capital first used them to rapidly convince investors that a specific project was worthy of funding. In those situations, the stakes were incredibly high; 45 seconds could make or break a new idea where investments in it were concerned. Today, everyone uses them in one form or another, from nonprofits like ACB affiliates to speed daters.

According to Michael Hyatt, there are three reasons you need an elevator speech:

  • It forces you to achieve clarity. That budding author who can’t summarize the plotline of an unpublished manuscript briefly and in a compelling way increases the odds that the manuscript will never be published.
  • It forces you to look at your affiliate or organization from the perspective of a new member. What are her concerns? What are his hopes? What are their dreams? What are their problems and concerns? Until you know those things, you can’t hope to effectively communicate how your offering benefits your listener.
  • Your speech can help you enroll strategic partners. No matter what your affiliate seeks to accomplish, it can’t do it alone. You need partners - either other nonprofits who serve a clientele similar to yours or a donor whose financial backing is crucial to your mission.

Crafting Your Pitch

Obviously, your pitch will differ depending on your audience. You'll stress different things to a donor than you might a staffer from a county council on aging with whom you’re working to recruit senior members. Regardless of your audience, your elevator speech needs to include the following four components:

  • Your offering's name and category
  • The problem you’re attempting to solve
  • Your proposed solution
  • The key benefit of your solution

Here's an example of how an ACB affiliate member might approach someone:

"I'm a board member of the [component one] American Council of the Blind of Ohio. We are [component two] seeking funding to purchase handheld magnifiers for distribution to area senior centers. These magnifiers [component three] will help those seniors who are losing their vision to continue to read and do many of the things they did prior to the onset of their vision loss. Our partnership would [component four] ensure that a sufficient number of magnifiers can be purchased to assist larger numbers of people while spending less money on the purchases."

The last thing you want to remember is that delivering your elevator speech breathlessly, too rapidly, or in a robotic fashion will erase any impact you may have had with the words. Speaking of words, try crafting an elevator speech that is no more than 150 words in length. Remember, your goal is high-impact brevity. If you impress someone quickly, you’ll get a chance to describe your work in greater detail later.