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How To Give an Elevator Speech

by Guest Writter
Ellen Rohr

 An Elevator Speech: A brief introduction of who you are, what you do and why one would be interested. 

I am a big fan of associations, of networking. I look for ‘eagles!’ I want to find folks who can teach me something. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars attending the best seminars.

I’ve sat at the feet of the world’s top business gurus – Steven Covey, Frank McGuire of Fed Ex, Frank Meeks of Domino’s Pizza, Tom Peters, Michael Gerber.

What could the Home Based Businesses of the Ozarks teach me?

Well, as a business owner in Rogersville, Missouri, I was invited to a hometown networking event. The speaker was a woman named Geraldine. As I found my seat, Geraldine swooped down on me and demanded, “Well? Who are you?”

Startled, I stammered, “Uh, I’m Ellen Rohr.”

She shook her head and prodded, “And what do you do?” I recalled the same tone of voice that Sr. Theresa used to prompt my catechism answers in 4th grade.

“Oh, gee, well, I teach basic business skills. I help folks learn how to read their financial reports. I straighten out accounting messes and offer business planning services. I’m licensed and insured, and I have been in business for 15 years. I have a degree in business administration and experience and lots of clients and no outstanding issues with the better business bureau, or any of you, I hope…” I blathered on, smiling broadly, expecting Geraldine to be duly impressed.

She put her finger to my lips and shushed me. “Fail,” she announced.

I felt my cheeks burn. I opened my mouth to respond, but had no idea what she was talking about.

“Honey, if you can’t tell me who you are and what you do in 20 seconds or less, well, I’m going to think you don’t know! And there better be something for me in those 20 seconds.”

Geraldine softened. “I have a formula for a solid Elevator Speech. When you think about what you do, what makes you different and better than your competition? Consider that, while I share the formula…

  • The Elevator Speech is divided into two sections.
  • The first section is agitating a problem or issue that a customer or fellow life traveler might face. Start your Elevator Speech with “You know how…” or “Have you ever had…” or “You know when…”
  • The second section is the unique solution that you provide. Begin this section with “What I do is…”

“A terrific Elevator Speech may help you make a sale. Even better, it may help you make a friend. It’s about sharing something about yourself and encouraging others to open up, too. So, stand up, look me in the eye and try again.”

Holy hush puppies! I looked around the room at the alert and amused members of the Home Based Businesses of the Ozarks. They looked back expectantly.

Gulp. “OK. Here goes. Hi, I’m Ellen Rohr. Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and wondered, ‘How am I going to make Payroll? Where am I going to find the money to pay my bills?’ What I do is make it super easy to figure out where the money is, where it goes….and how to make lots more of it.”

“Better!” Geraldine smiled and won me over with her dimpled grin. “I am interested in making easy money. Have a seat. You can stay.” She and the rest of the group chuckled. I exhaled and accepted the hard-won praise like a puppy.

As you wander into your business pasture, recall this chicken nugget of Ozarkian wisdom: When you tell folks who you are and what you do, keep it plain and straight. And bring something for them to get their teeth into.


About the Author

Ellen Rohr is the president of Bare Bones Biz. She teaches business basics – the things that make all the difference to business success. She provides “in the trenches” insights that business owners can relate to. Ellen has helped thousands of biz builders start, fix and grow their companies. She’s also a columnist for PHC News and contributor to many business journals and trade magazines. You can follow Ellen on Facebook & Twitter.

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