When a Speech Turns into a Conversation

The elevator speech is the brief description of yourself you give when asked what you do. The name is from the time it takes to ride an elevator. Of course, you will frequently give it outside of that device.

I belong to a meetup group that follows this pattern.

First time around the table, you give your elevator speech. Members of the group make observations and suggestions to help you improve.


I fretted and stewed over mine. I tried to memorize it. I went down in flames multiple times. I sounded like a robot. Then I relaxed and determined that much of the difficulty was because I was saying something I didn’t completely believe or felt uncomfortable saying.


When working on your speech, it really helps if you are passionate about things. It really, really helps if you remember to smile while you are talking. Think of the things you like about the work you do. Try to capture that aspect in what you say. Ask a question to draw in your audience.

Body Language

Don’t forget about body language. Studies show that with the right body language, you can recite the alphabet and still capture your audience. Well, maybe not the alphabet. The studies show you can be convincing even if what you are saying is not the greatest.

Know Your Audience

I attend other networking meetings where people give a similar speech. Those usually close with a list of target companies in case others can provide contacts with one or more of your target companies.

If you know your audience, it’s best to adapt it to them. Keep the main points you want to make in mind and work in something you know about the company. If you know they are struggling with something; you want to show how you can help.

The You Message

You’ve probably heard about the “I message.” That’s a way of talking with somebody and owning that what you say is your opinion. Nothing raises hackles faster than saying things like, “Well everybody says …” or “People are saying…”

Now you need to understand the “You message.” In your speech, you need to tell the listener what you can do for them. Asking things like, “What’s the biggest issue you are facing?” or “Tell me about the thing you need to resolve yesterday.” You can be empathetic and learn many things from such conversations.

Listen and let them talk.

Morphing to Conversation

And that’s the thing about the Elevator Speech. If possible, you want it to turn into a conversation. You at least want them to remember you and want to talk with you again. You never know who you are going to run into unless you are a stalker (not recommended). You never know if you capture somebody’s attention how that will play out.


What’s the worst that can happen? The door opens, they say, “Nice chatting with you” and you never see them again. What’s the best that can happen? They tell you to follow them, and they immediately hire you for a cushy position. Maybe they give you their card and say, “Call me.” Don’t try to figure out how it will end in advance.

Go with the flow and be your most authentic, engaging self.