Elevator Speeches: Not Just for Elevators

elevator.jpgContributed by Emily A. Donahoe of

An Elevator Speech is defined as a persuasive, “call-to-action” presentation that is 30-60 seconds in length and approximately 100-150 words. The origin of its name is self-evident; it can be delivered, effectively, in the span of a typical elevator ride.

Elevator Speeches (also called Elevator Pitches) are all the rage these days in communications training and for good reason; these mini-presentations are fairly easy to construct and to deliver, and pack a powerful punch. Not limited just to entrepreneurs pitching to potential investors, these speeches can serve as compelling and competitive means of self-advocacy across several channels of communication for a variety of agenda and target audiences. Elevator Speeches can be used as a networking tool, a sales pitch, in a job interview or to promote a special event or project.

I’ve broken this down into a basic list format, which gives you a step-by-step process by which to construct an active and dynamic Elevator Speech.

1. Define the topic for yourself in general terms. Let’s work through a very basic example of creating an elevator speech for self-promotion at a networking event. So that’s our topic – “creating an elevator speech for my upcoming networking event”.

2. Ask the six basic questions from high school English class; “who?”, “what?”, “when?”, “where?”, “why?’, “how?” In the example of the networking elevator speech, those answers would be as follows:

Who: Me
What: Partner, XXX Consulting
When: XXX Consulting has been in business for over 20 years
Where: Based in NYC: can travel anywhere.
How: MBA in 2005. Same year, designed consulting and training programs for more effective communications consulting in our industry.
Why: Saw a market opportunity. Believe in the concept of the business – personally and professionally. Always looking for new ideas and challenges.

With the outline above, I can already put together the skeleton of my elevator speech:

“I joined my company, XXX Consulting, in 2005, the same year I received my MBA. I saw a need for more effective communications consulting in this industry, and was inspired to design programs to do just that. Business is great, and our track record of proven results is strong. I’m always looking to work on new and challenging projects.”

Like I said, rough. But it gives a great bare bones structure onto which you can build.

3. Define, bluntly, what action you want your target audience to take as a result of having heard your elevator pitch, and the reasons they would take that action.

The action: using our example, let’s say that the action I want my target audience to take would be “to hire XXX Consulting”.

The reason for taking the action: doing so will provide direct and enormous benefit in some way to the target audience.

In this case, the company’s past accomplishments and measurable results have made it credible, and therefore provide ample reason for the target audience to believe that its services can provide value to him or her.


“XXX Consulting could be of enormous value to your organization, and give your employees the skills to sell more quickly and effectively.”

Taking it a step further, the “Problem-Solution” construction here is one that can pay off in spades, and make your speech even more specific. What problem do your services solve? (This construction is especially useful for sales pitches.) Apply this construct wherever possible – and, of course, always best to stay positive.


“XXX Consulting has programs and services that provide terrific tools to end the communication management problems that interfere with an organization’s maximum performance.”

Simple as that.

4. Marry step 2 to step 3. That is to say, make the facts (step 2) of your pitch as benefit oriented and relevant (step 3) as possible. The sooner you can state the benefits to your target audience – and the more you repeat those benefits, the better. This is called “driving the message”.


“My company could provide enormous value to you. I joined XXX Consulting in 2005 – the same year I received my MBA. I saw a need for more effective communications consulting in this industry, and was inspired to design programs to do just that. Business is great because our track of proven results is strong. Our communications programs have – time and again – helped companies maximize performance. I’d love to talk with you more – I’m always looking to work on new and challenging projects.”.

This mentions benefits four times inside of 100 words. In the realm of elevator speeches (or any kind of public speaking, for that matter), repetition is one of your best friends.

You have also introduced and promoted yourself effectively – which is the stated original topic of this speech. Keeping your message results oriented keeps you from seeming arrogant or pushy; streamlining allows for your enthusiasm for your message to shine through without seeming too emotional.

I always insist that my clients write these steps down as they go, because fragments of the speech begin to appear as you work through the process – and at the end you can usually see which pieces fit together, and which may some pruning.

Elevator Speeches can also be one of the most powerful tools in your possession and can be tailored for use in lots of situations – simply shape your content using the guidelines listed above. Taking the time to have one (or a few) in your back pocket ensures that you are as prepared and self-possessed as possible when opportunity knocks – whatever the arena.

Emily A. Donahoe is the founder and president of WOMENSPEAK Training, which specializes in public communications training for women. For more information on this topic, please contact Emily A. Donahoe at emily.donahoe (at), or call 1(888)211-3593