The elevator speech is one of many tools budding professionals and students should have in their repertoire. But don’t feel limited to only using your speech in an elevator. As fall approaches, you’d be surprised how many opportunities you might have to use those few rehearsed verses. Networking events, conferences, first-day-of-class introductions (raise your hand if you use the same formula for each course!), even interviewing for and settling in at your new internship are all appropriate scenarios where a well-crafted elevator speech will help you stand out from the crowd.
There are a few keys to crafting a meaningful elevator speech:
Keep it simple.
Think of your elevator speech as a 30-second television commercial. It must be brief, interesting and above all else, evoke a positive response about you and the exchange. An elevator speech that is too long, unorganized or underdeveloped will leave a sour lasting impression. Instead, use your time to introduce one or two thoughts about your current project, role or experience. Say just enough to give your audience a peek at what’s happening in your wheelhouse and leave room for questions. (Just like the goal for a commercial is to spark action in the viewer, bonus points for you if your “commercial” prompts a follow up event, like a future meeting.)
Ditch the jargon.
Although there are many, the most widely accepted definition of public relations is here. Sure, all these words make sense to PR practitioners and students but consider what might happen if you repeated this definition word-for-word to someone who knows little about what you do in PR — they’d zone out in a hot second. Worse, they’d likely walk away still having no clue what your team in public relations is up to. Hint: if you dare utter the words “mutually-beneficial” or “publics,” be prepared to define them for your audience.
Consider your audience.
Understanding who might receive your elevator speech is important so that you can relate it back to their goals. If, for example, you’re riding the elevator with your boss’ boss, simply stating that your role on the PR team is to monitor news media coverage, compile a monthly report and that you’re really excited to work here, will leave him/her unimpressed. Instead try something like, “I’ve been monitoring our company’s media coverage as the primary task for my internship. You may have noticed our slide in the latest executive report showing a 20 percent increase of positive sentiment month-over-month! And compared to our two closest competitors, we’re killing it this quarter on social media engagement! It’s been a really cool project to take on and I’ve gotten so much support from my team while I learn.” This is effective because in just 22 seconds, you will have demonstrated your knowledge, build up your team and indicated that, even as an intern, you appreciate the impact of your daily tasks as they relate to the company.
Practice but don’t come off rehearsed.
The main point here is being comfortable talking with new people for a short duration and leaving a great impression. Start by talking to anyone and everyone. In line at the grocery store or coffee shop? Spark casual conversation with those around you. At a restaurant waiting for a friend to arrive? Sit at the bar and strike up a dialogue with other patrons or the bartender. This helps build your confidence for that awkward dance of trying to find common ground with a stranger.
- Take a few minutes to jot down your best 30 second elevator speech for what you’re currently working on at work or school. Just pick one thing for now, you can always develop different versions for specific venues/audiences once you’ve got some practice under your belt.
- Circle the vocabulary words. Cull each of these with no mercy. Unless you’re chatting with other PR people, avoid jargon. It will effectively alienate those with whom you’re speaking.
- Read it aloud – is that something you can spit out in fewer than 30 seconds? Did you leave time for a breath or those inevitable couple of “umms” to sneak in? If a word is tripping you up now, it will later as well; replace it.
- Now get out there and practice. Repeat your lines to yourself (and others) while in line for the train, waiting for your coffee and in the elevator. Make it a habit to introduce yourself to as many folks as you can and when faced with the often dreaded “what do you do?” question, you’ll be ready!
Briana Bryant is a senior at University of Alabama at Birmingham, majoring in public relations. She serves as the 2017-2018 UAB PRSSA/PRCA Chapter vice president and firm director, is a new member of the PRSSA National Industry News and Events subcommittee, and a new PRSSA Regional Ambassador.