Today's blog post is by Terri Sjodin, principal and founder of Sjodin Communications. In her newly updated book, Small Message, Big Impact, Terri Sjodin offers her time-tested strategies for crafting clear, concise, compelling presentations. She includes outlines, worksheets, a sample elevator speech, evaluation forms, and more.
You're in the airport waiting for a flight, burning time by checking your BlackBerry or iPhone and reading the paper. You just want to get home. Then you catch a glimpse of the CEO you've been wanting to meet with for weeks. He's standing against the wall, also waiting for his flight – your flight! Hmmm, wouldn't it be great if you were seated next to him? Should you walk over? What would you say? You don't want to be intrusive, but gosh, it's a great opportunity to talk with him and introduce yourself. There's no secretary to screen you out. All you have to do is walk over and hand him your card.
Your pulse quickens and your mind races. "What will I say?" you ask yourself. You decide he doesn't want to be bugged. "I'll leave him alone." Then, over the loudspeaker, you hear that first-class passengers are invited to board the plane. He is gone, and so is your shot.
We've all been there. A new opportunity presents itself. You might have only one chance to share your message. You feel the pressure. The clock is ticking...
Will you be ready, or will you just wing it? When you make the most of that unique opportunity or meeting, your path could change forever. In this age of information overload, no business skill is more essential than being able to communicate well, get to the point, and connect with others quickly.
Enter the elevator speech effect...
Do you have an effective elevator speech? Do you need one or even want one? In today's competitive market, the answer is yes. Note: Don't think of an elevator speech as just a generic tool that you use in chance moments. Consider it a strategy to manage multiple talking points, as well.
How do you get started?
To reach any goal or complete any task, you must first define your intention. What do we mean by "intention"? The American Heritage Dictionary defines intention as "a course of action that one intends to follow; an aim that guides action; an objective."
So what is the desired result of your elevator speech or brief message? It's not to close the deal; it's to start a conversation.
I recently shared this idea with one of my dearest friends, Brad McMillen, who is a former state championship quarterback turned Internet sales executive. He offered this analogy:
"When you mentioned your concept of the three-minute elevator speech and intention, the word 'intention' reminded me of when I was playing football. Our intention was to score eventually. As quarterback, I would go to the line, ready to throw a pass. I had a system of reads, depending on the defense. The first option was to throw long. If that was covered, as I dropped back to throw, I looked at my secondary option. If he was covered, I threw to my third option. If he was covered, I just threw the ball away or ran for my life.
"In the end, I kept the same overall intention – to score points with my team. This progression is called 'checking down,' and it's what quarterbacks do. They check down but always with the ultimate goal of getting to the end zone. The point is, you don't have to score on every play, just advance the ball."
Similarly, the point of the three-minute elevator speech is not to close the deal. Its goal is to advance you to the next point in your sales process.
It's beneficial to keep your intention in mind at all times, not solely when you have a presentation on the horizon. When you strike up a conversation with someone you don't know, that person doesn't have to be a designated target. Simply keep your message out there, sharing it with people who know other people. Your message is important, and you have to let it be heard. Believe in it, share it, and practice communicating it with clear, concise talking points that help you move toward your intention, and it becomes a natural part of your communication.