The Easy Way for Anyone to Create an Elevator Speech

 This question applies to every business person even though it was asked by an insurance agent.

An elevator speech is a very short, concise oral summation of you, your company, your product, or whatever you’re trying to sell; that’s “sell” in the broadest possible sense.   

The purpose of an elevator speech is to capture the attention of whomever you’re talking to within fifteen seconds. It should be no more than 150 words, it should not waste a single one of those words, and it should not sound like a sales pitch. 

An elevator speech consists of three parts: the hook, the content, and the close. The hook and close are the most important, and the best elevator speech will include no more than a sentence for each one. Start with the hook, the beginning of the speech.

Elevator speeches must start with something that sounds compelling: a humorous comment, a statement that turns upside-down the listener’s normal perception of you or your industry, or a truthful and exciting description of what you do.  

This hook should be interactive – not “Hi, I’m Tom Smith, and I sell cars,” but rather, “Hi, I’m Tom Smith, and I’m paid to show my clients a good time every day.”  With an unusual statement like that, the other person is likely to ask: “What do you mean?”  Then you could explain that all day you get to see the pleasure on the faces of your clients as they come back from test driving a Ford Mustang (or whatever you sell).

 You should come up with something similar that would make the listener automatically say: “what do you mean?” or “how do you do that?”   

So for instance, as an insurance agent you can introduce yourself as “I’m a dream protector?”  The likely response to that is “what does that mean?”  This gives you an invitation to continue the conversation, and also makes the person receptive to what you have to say, since he/she is now curious.  When the person asks you “what do you mean?” you then proceed to give them a short example or two of how you protected a particular dream for someone.  

Keep the conversation focused on the dreams you protected and that will build interest. 

One way of looking at an elevator speech: it’s a pickup line for potential customers and contacts, something that makes them stop and think twice about passing you by. 

It’s critical that your elevator speech not sound contrived, or like a sales pitch. Instead, it should bring out your personality, and say things that you’d say anyway. If you’re having trouble with finding your hook, you can try the five-what’s technique, commonly used to break through writers’ block for fiction writers–ask yourself five times what you do, then answer it differently each time, as quickly as you can. Again, as an insurance example: 

I’m an insurance salesperson.

I protect people’s assets.

I protect people’s dreams.

I protect people’s families.

I keep people safe. 

As a matter of fact, keep asking yourself what you are and keep listing your answers until you come up with something that gives you the “Aha” feeling.  Come up with a couple different hooks you can test at your next network event. 

The hook is the most important part of your elevator speech, because it’s the thing that would foster a conversation.  Come up with a great hook and the other person has to ask you “what does that mean” or “how do you do that”.  The rest of the elevator speech flows from the hook.  As I mentioned above, the rest of the speech should be examples of how you have benefited others.  If you are new to your industry and have no personal stories yet, use examples or stories from your industry. 

As with all things I talk about, intent is most important.  The elevator speech is not intended to be used as a manipulation technique.  The purpose of the elevator speech is to bypass the listeners’ normal psychological defenses and allow them to HEAR you, so THEY can benefit from what you have to offer.  It is not so that you can get what you want. 

See, the funny thing is that when you help people get what they want, you automatically get what you want.  So just focus on speaking your message to help others and you’ll get what you need/want. 

Finally, you need a good, gripping close. Ideally, your close should be as short as, or shorter than, your hook, and it should contain both a call to action and prompt your listener to ask a question. 

The idea is that your elevator speech is a conversation opener. If it doesn’t get people talking to you at least half the time, you need to change it. 

You should change your message regularly anyway. This is partly because you start to sound stale delivering the same lines a thousand times, and partly because things that sound clever today may not sound so clever in six months. This also frees you up to be topical if you want, though of course political issues that your business doesn’t deal with directly should be avoided. 

So here’s another example of how an elevator speech for an insurance salesperson could go: 

You: I’m Gloria, and I make sure you don’t go bankrupt if those levees break again. Listener: What do you mean?

You: You would not believe some of the things I saw with the Katrina!

Listener: Like what?

You: (tell a short story that arouses interest or curiosity)

Listener: Wow! That’s interesting.

You: (Pause)

Listener: So how would you help me?

You: My company insures everything from motorcycles to warehouses and we would….. 

An excellent resource for being able to deliver a powerful 30-second message is Ann Convery’s Speak Your Business in 30 Seconds.  You can learn more about it at

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