“Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are the CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
-Tom Peters, management guru
We all have a story – where we’ve been, where we’re headed, and what makes us unique. Crafting a clear and concise professional story – what is commonly referred to as an elevator speech – is vital for your career growth and expanding your professional network.
While many of us know our story (after all, we’ve lived it!), we are not always capable of articulating the important aspects of our story in professional settings. Unfortunately, this can lead to missed opportunities. So whether you’re networking, looking to further your career, or even chatting with someone in a social setting, being prepared with a well-crafted elevator speech is key to growing your professional relationships and is an important tool in your professional tool box.
So what exactly is an elevator speech? As professionals, we often find ourselves in situations where we need to describe who we are, what we do, what makes us unique, and what it would be like to work with us – all within a very short amount of time. Sometimes this can be as little as 30 seconds – about the time you’d have to introduce yourself to someone with whom you’re riding an elevator. Done properly, your elevator speech helps you introduce yourself to career connections in a compelling way and opens the door for developing a longer-term relationship.
Capturing your story
To get started, write down answers to the following questions, trying to keep your answer for each to one or two sentences.
- Who am I?
- What do I do?
- Who do I serve; i.e., what types of clients/organizations do I work with?
- What is my professional passion?
- What makes me different? What are my personal drivers? What am I known for? What makes me, me?
- What can I offer the person to whom I’m telling this story?
Writing down the answers to these questions is helpful because it allows you to review your story as a whole and continually refine it until it flows smoothly and feels authentic and natural. For most of us, this process is difficult because talking about yourself is difficult. If you’re really challenged, try thinking about these questions from the perspective of how other people would describe you. Or, you can even ask trusted colleagues or mentors who know you well for their input.
Once you have your basic story compiled, here are a few tips to help you deliver it like a pro:
- Keep it brief. Your speech should be limited to 60-120 seconds.
- Practice, practice, practice. Though you craft the elements of your story ahead of time, when you’re talking to someone your speech should feel and sound natural. The key to making that happen is practice. Practice on your own first (and time it to make sure you’re staying in that one to two minute length), then practice on a friend or mentor. The more you practice, the easier your story will roll off your tongue – especially in those situations when you might be nervous.
- Be prepared….but don’t over prepare. This may seem counter to the previous point. But while it is important to have a prepared elevator speech, it is just as important to be genuine and passionate in the moment. You don’t want to come across as robotic or over-rehearsed when you’re talking with someone.
- Know your audience. It can be tempting to use industry-specific jargon to demonstrate your knowledge, but this approach can confuse your audience if they’re not familiar with the terminology and they can quickly lose interest in what you’re saying.
- Verbalize action. What exactly do you do? For example, saying, “I am an accountant” does not provide your audience a true feel for what you do and it leaves a lot open to interpretation. You can fill in the blanks and provide a frame of reference by saying something like, “I advise manufacturers in the Greater Philadelphia area.”
- End your story with a question. This indicates to your audience that you are finished, and prompts the conversation to continue. The question can be as simple as, “So what do you do?”
Creating and effectively delivering a strong elevator speech is an important career skill that will create a strong personal brand with the people with which you come into contact. So, what’s your story?
Lisa Pileggi is a director in Kreischer Miller’s Tax Strategies group and a member of the Real Estate Industry Group. Lisa joined Kreischer Miller as a tax staff in 2004, after beginning her career with the Internal Revenue Service upon graduating from Cabrini College. When she’s not advising clients, you can find Lisa spending quality time with her husband and two children, William and Olive. Contact Lisa at Email.
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