Elevator Speech

You’re in an elevator with the Board president. Or the Mayor. Or the Chairperson of the city’s Youth Commission. You have one minute before the elevator opens and you go your separate ways. What do you say? You’ve got your elevator speech prepared, and now’s the perfect time to use it!

What is an elevator speech? An elevator speech is a brief opportunity (one minute or less) to answer the questions, “What do you do and why should I care?” The goal is to plant a seed of curiosity so as the elevator doors (real or metaphorical) open, the listener says, “Tell me more.”

How do I craft a good introductory elevator speech? Describe what you do and why it’s important in the world.

Sample template: “I help_______________[your main customer group] _____________[verb]  in order to ________________[large, positive result].”

Sample Speech:  “I help kids and families unpack their curiosity at the library so that the kids can go out and change our world for the better.”

What if I’m already acquainted with my audience? When an opportunity arises and you’re familiar with your audience, use an elevator speech to begin a discussion, create awareness, solve a problem, change a mind, or elicit a response. Here’s how:

Re-introduce yourself. If you think the person won’t remember you, quickly introduce yourself again. “Ms. Mayor, I’m _________ from the library.”

Lead with information your audience might not know. Capture the listener’s attention with an interesting fact, statistic, or comparison.

Share the positive value. What’s the payoff for your listener’s constituency? Articulate it. Example: “Our library programs give junior high kids in our community a safe place to learn, have fun, and develop social skills.”

End with an ask. Now that you’ve tantalized your listener with interesting information, ask to follow up. You might suggest a meeting or ask permission to send the person more information.