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Stop the Elevator!

The new year approaches, and with it comes a lot of the same old career-advice that didn’t get you a job last year and won’t get you one in 2022. That job advice includes “Practice and perfect your elevator speech.”

Here's the truth about the elevator speech, courtesy of business branding expert Stephen Melanson:

The elevator pitch might be the single WORST idea in the history of modern business!

There are five reasons (at least) why this is so:

1. Thirty seconds, which is the typical length taught to people, is way too long - you've lost people about 10 seconds into your pitch.

2. Nearly everyone's elevator pitch is, on reflection, just an exercise in self-description, which no one really cares about. People only want to know what's in it for them.

3. The idea of true differentiation is incredibly rare in the normal formation of an elevator pitch. And even if it was in there, it would be lost with the rest of the overblown, boring content.

4. People can tell it's an elevator pitch almost immediately once someone starts to recite theirs. This turns people off, that you can't speak to them in a normal way without memorizing something.

5. The elevator pitch is a sales tactic; everyone uses them, which commoditizes you out of the gate. What you need is a statement reflecting your differentiated OFFER (i.e. something offered to the market that's 'different and better' than anything else, which BTW is how a Verbal Branding platform is set up).

The simplest way I can tell you how to get rid of your elevator pitch is:

a) After you tell someone what category of business you're in - accountant, software, legal, wealth manager, etc., tell them in five seconds or less your best differentiated offer, the reason they'd be crazy to not use or work with you.

b) The reason you need this is actually sort of important. If you can't do it, you're losing money, brand identity, market share, and collective confidence every single day!


In short, when it comes to the elevator speech---Stop doing it!

But you ask, if I should not use the elevator speech, what should I do instead?

The answer is simple:

1) Introduce yourself concisely, preferably within 20 seconds.

2) Ask about them and then listen.

But…but…you stammer---I want them to help me get a job!

Yes. And they want YOU to help THEM get a job.

Pause for a second and ask yourself why anybody should be more interested in helping you than themselves.

Networking is not telling your tale of woe. Networking is not asking for job or asking people whether someone they know has a job.

It is the building of mutually beneficial relationships.

Once again, I recall how my wife once complimented a neighbor on her garden and the next day the woman brought over some bulbs and cuttings and taught my wife how to plant them properly. My wife learned how to garden from that woman and other neighborhood gardeners.

Had my wife demanded some plants from that woman who helped her get started, how do you think that woman would have responded? Probably not very kindly. She would have wondered, ”Who are you to demand something precious from me? I don’t know you .” No way she would have delivered cuttings to our home the next day.

In both fields, a little kindness and interest in the other person can go a long way.

So, instead of starting with an elevator speech that is all about you and what you offer a prospective employer—which is usually of no interest to the other person at a networking event-- start the relationship by actually offering support: Listen; ask questions; offer insight.

Unless the other person is a selfish “taker,” after they recite their elevator speech and possibly tell their tale of woe, they will provide you with plenty of opportunities to share your interests.

And, just like the gardener I described above, they will appreciate your listening, your questions, and your interest. They will be more likely to build a mutually beneficial relationship with you. And that is what networking is all about.

Job seeker: But, is the elevator speech good for anything? Where can I use it?

Use your elevator speech as the basis for that interview question—“Tell me about yourself.” Too many job seekers can’t answer that question in under four minutes. If you’ve got a good elevator speech, it’s probably around a minute; perfect length for “tell me about yourself.

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