Lift yourself right up with a good elevator speech

Elevator speeches are a delightfully North American invention if for no reason other than North American cities tended to have very tall commercial buildings before the others in far-flung places got there. And anyway, people – whilst travelling in their elevators (lifts) – have the opportunity to share their raison d’ètre with whoever happens to be going up or down with them at the same time.

Despite many big city buildings being unbelievably tall, their elevators move fast, so whatever you say to your co-elevatorees on the way up or down needs to fit into around 30 seconds or so.

Realistically, “elevator speeches” are set pieces in which you need to define why you exist – in business terms – within a very short space of time whether you’re yomping up and down in an elevator, speed-networking at a F2F meeting, or chatting to a potential client while waiting for a bus or train. Whatever the circumstance, this is not the right occasion for trotting out your mini-biography, no matter how concise it might be.

Whereas mini-biographies talk about you, elevator speeches must talk about what you do for your clients. Big difference. However don’t be intimidated. All you need to do is identify how whatever your skill or business capability is, helps clients do their stuff better.

To illustrate, here is a short bio of mine, followed by an equivalent “elevator speech…”

Bijou bio:
Suzan St Maur is a leading business writer, best-selling author, editor and writing coach. Check out how she can help you write more effectively here:

Elevator speech:
I help people create text that works – from whole books to microblogs. I’m also an editor / proofreader / writing coach with 30+ published books of my own, so I really do know how to help you successfully write whatever you want to!

See the difference?

Yes, but everybody says “I help you do blah-blah-blah” …

And when they do, they’re on the right track. However someone in an elevator with a half-dozen random business people who says:

I can help you get rid of bugs that eat your baby lettuces with my amazing organic, eco-friendly bug deterrent

…isn’t necessarily going to score too many points.

But relax. If you do something that specialized, you don’t need to avoid big city elevators and focus on country buildings where amateur veggie growers congregate to admire the huge size of each other’s cucumbers.

Not only are these latter buildings unlikely to contain an elevator in the first place, but also they are unlikely to contain quite so many potential clients who could use your broader talents.

So, how do you adapt your elevator speech for bigger urban elevators where potential clients could abound? By thinking wider and broader.

Take a few steps back and develop the big picture

Say you are that gardening expert and you can, indeed, show people how to stop bugs destroying their baby lettuce crops.

But … what else does that do?

Sure, we have to assume that some people in that elevator won’t give a sh*t about growing vegetables. A few will, but far more importantly most if not all will be interested in ways to improve eco-friendly, organic ways of making sure their salad is bug-free and clean.

So, how about something like this for your elevator speech:

If you eat salad, I bet you care about how bug-free your lettuce is? Well, my business gets rid of any bugs that could contaminate your salads … organically and safely.

As always, think about “what’s in it for them”

I know I’ve been banging on about “what’s in it for them” for years now but as I’ve pointed out above the sad reality is that your elevator speech needs to ignore, potentially, what you’d really like to say, and focus purely on what you can offer the other people in the elevator.

If in doubt about the content of your elevator speech, check out this article of mine – it’s a bit harsh, but it stops you writing up blind alleys and keeps you focused on what you need.

So – good luck. (And if you do happen to know how to kindly and organically divert bugs away from my young lettuce plants, please share here in the comments….)

Now, give all your writing a lift:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

photo credit: lrargerich via photo pin cc




  1. You’re right on. What’s in it for them is the question to ask when you’re writing an elevator speech. I’ve also learned that you need many of them. What you choose to say depends on your “audience” in the elevator or at a networking group. Another thing you can do is to start by asking a question that is a problem for many people then add a sentence that tells what your solution is.

    Oh and by the way you don’t want to be the next person at a networking group to describe your business after someone who has a GREAT elevator pitch and has everyone listening … or do you? She got the group ready for you, didn’t she?

    • ….”start by asking a question that is a problem for many people then add a sentence that tells what your solution is.”

      That’s brilliant, Trudy – thanks for sharing. It’s an excellent, simple way to customize your elevator speech.


  1. […] including yours truly here, love to talk about elevator speeches and how awful they can be. But whether or not we regard them scornfully they are an intrinsic, and […]