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Posted: April 25, 2014

Best of CoBiz: Is your elevator speech stuck between floors?

Make the most of holiday networking with these four tips

Julie Hansen

Much of the advice on how to introduce one's self, commonly referred to as the elevator speech, is seriously outdated. Why? Because both elevators and people are a lot faster now! Experts used to think you had the length of an elevator ride, say 30-60 seconds to make an impression, now they think its closer to 7-10. And though its name would suggest otherwise, don't be deceived: an elevator speech is not a speech. It is a conversation starter. It should pique interest and inspire questions and dialogue -- not make the other person wish they had never asked.

Test your elevator speech against the following four points to make sure you don't get stuck between floors:

1) Is it interesting?

Think about when you ask that question: "What do you do?" Nine times out of 10, aren't you just being polite? And yet, isn't there a small part of you secretly hoping the other person will say something really interesting, like I'm an astronaut or I'm on the Canadian Luge team? On a more realistic level, wouldn't you be happy if they could offer help or be a professional or personal resource? I'm not suggesting you lie or grossly exaggerate, but there is something unique and special about what you do or how you do it. Use it to differentiate yourself in the first few seconds and you will dramatically increase your chances of being remembered.

2) Is it specific?
Are you focusing on one or two specific things or pouring out a stream of information? The latter will have your listener tune out before you can say "second floor, please." Think of this as a teaser for future conversations. If you get their attention initially you will be invited to continue or given permission to elaborate at a later date.

3) Is it conversational?

Have you ever listened to yourself give your introduction? Often what we write does not easily translate into the spoken word. You can test it out by trying it on a friend or coworker, or by leaving it on your voicemail. When you listen to it, ask yourself honestly: Would you have a conversation with that person? Whenever it gets boring or self-serving, hit the delete button. That's exactly what prospects will do on the phone and mentally what they'll do in person.

4) Is it buzzy?

Industry jargon or popular buzz words send listeners' eyes glazing over. Try eliminating any trendy business words, like "I...facillitate, strategize, empower, impact, integrate...etc." Even if that is, in fact, the best way to describe what you do. Yes, you have to take into account your listeners, but in general, it's a good rule of thumb to always use the simplest words possible to express yourself. Think more Hemmingway and less William Faulkner.

Julie Hansen helps sales and business executives differentiate their solution and deliver winning presentations by leveraging proven performance skills from film, stage and improv.  The founder of Performance Sales and Training, Julie’s techniques have been adopted by Fortune 500 companies across the globe, including IBM, Oracle, SAP and local Colorado companies to gain a competitive selling edge.  Julie is an international speaker, sales trainer and the author of ACT Like a Sales Pro!  Learn more about workshops and keynotes at, start a sales conversation at  or connect with Julie on LinkedIn.

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