Sum yourself up in an ‘elevator speech’

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Judy Smith

                   CAREER COACH
                                  By Judy Smith

Question: Now that I’m looking for a job, I hear a lot of people talking about their “elevator speech.” What do they mean by that?

Answer: The concept of an elevator speech has been around for a long time. It’s a succinct (approximately 30 second) business description of what you do and why someone should hire you. It’s called an “elevator speech” because it describes the need to be able to sell yourself to another individual in the time it takes to ride with them on an elevator from the ground floor to the top floor.

However, that was then. Elevators are much faster, and attention spans are much shorter, now. (Statistics show that the average person today loses focus in about eight seconds!) Therefore, an elevator speech these days needs to be stepped up. “Hello, my name is” just won’t do it.

As a job seeker, it’s essential to use an elevator speech whenever you want to introduce yourself to a new contact. You need to craft a strong elevator speech — one that makes a lasting first impression and positions you in the listener’s mind.

Here’s a short course on preparing a good elevator speech.

1. The introduction. Start with your name and what you do (i.e., your expertise and its value). For example, “I write computer programs that make Internet searches more targeted.”

Remember, you have to keep the person you’re meeting with focused. You need to make him/her interested in hearing more about you within the first eight to 10 seconds. (You can cover a lot of ground in those few seconds.)

 2.  Professional accomplishment. For example, “My team and I designed a new process that ultimately increased revenue by 35 percent.”

3. An “emotional hook.” Keep a smile on your face, offer a sincere statement of passion for your profession, or show your conviction for a cause (nonprofits, helping the elderly, etc.). For instance: “I’m very pleased I can help so many seniors age in place.”

4. What you want to do next (what you’re looking for). For instance: “Now I’m eager to apply my skills in the field of X, in an agency that focuses on improving Y,” etc.

5. A big finish. A sentence or two that tells about an action you took that brought something to a successful conclusion.

People like success stories. The story doesn’t need to be something that happened on the job, but it should illustrate a skill of yours that you’re eager for the listener to know more about. Tell them about a problem you solved, colleagues you successfully mentored, a program you created, or a commendation you were given.

Rules for a good elevator speech

• Your complete speech should be as close to 30 seconds as possible. If you don’t deliver your message quickly, people will stop listening to you.

• Your speech should use language that’s easy for the average person to understand. Don’t use technical words or jargon.                                                        

• Your speech should be well-rehearsed — but sound like it’s not rehearsed at all!

To help you get started, make a list of all the services you provide. Then, think of the benefits that a potential employer or client could derive from your services. You could use successful outcomes to illustrate benefits.

Here’s my sample speech:

“Hi, I’m Judy Smith. I help people find satisfying new jobs and coach clients on how to become more successful at their work. For example, I helped a client change jobs with a 40 percent salary increase. I helped a client develop the skills to deal with a difficult boss, and I helped a manager design training that measurably improved staff performance. I love giving clients the knowledge they need to move their lives forward!”

Edit and practice

• Start writing. Prepare a rough draft of your speech. Edit it. Put it down for a while and come back to it later. See if it still rings true. If not, edit it some more. When you finally arrive at the elevator speech that best suits you, you’ll know it.

• Record yourself; listen to it. Do you sound confident? Is your speech engaging? Does it seem rehearsed?

• Run it by as many friends and family as you can. Ask for their feedback.

• Memorize the final speech.

• Practice your speech until it feels like it’s rolling off your tongue — until you “feel the vibe.”

Now you’re ready to take your compelling speech on the road.  Watch as it consistently ramps up your listeners’ attention!

Judy Smith is a registered career coach. Send your job search questions to Smith at, or visit her website at