How to Craft Your Elevator Speech

Oh, the inevitable elevator speech. Something every newbie to the corporate world wants to have, and something most experienced corporate folks know they should have but haven’t worked on in a while.

Being stuck on an elevator with a “higher up” and needing less than 30 seconds to tell your story really does happen.

Ok, it didn’t really happen to me, yet, but something like this happened at my internship before my senior year of college.

I had just gotten off the elevator. I could see beyond the security turnstiles that the CEO of Securian at the time, Bob Senkler, was walking right toward myself and another intern. Before my brain even had a chance to tell my wide-eyed and bushy-tailed self to “slow down”, I marched right up to him and introduced myself and my co-worker.

I think it went something like this: “Hi Bob! My name is Kelsey Swanson and I am in the summer class of Management Services Leadership Development Interns. This is Taylor Drenttel who is also a summer intern. Our boss Julie Gauger said we might come across you during our time this summer so I just wanted to make sure we introduced ourselves!”.

It was smooth. It was empowering. It was motivating.

I’ll admit. That one chance I took to introduce myself to a CEO in a brief and bright way wasn’t going to be that magical elevator speech that opened the door of all doors (and yes, I do believe that is a thing), but it taught me something BIG. It taught me that elevator speeches are a real thing, and you should always have one in your back pocket ready to use - in any situation and at any time.

It wasn’t by luck that I had the confidence to walk up to the CEO. I had practiced what I would say if I had to introduce myself to someone. This was actually easy to do before I started working. For those of you still in college, you can relate. It went something like this “I’m Kelsey Swanson, a junior management major at Gustavus Adolphus College”. EASY. No practice needed.

So, how do we make it that easy again? How can you always be equipped to share your elevator speech like a pro? Three easy steps, that’s how.

Step 1: Get your own name down.

I’m not joking. Can you confidently introduce yourself with only your name? “Hi! I”m Kelsey Swanson” and firmly shake someone’s hand? If this ALONE makes you nervous, I challenge you to awkwardly do this in the mirror 100 times until it feels natural (or at least so memorized that it appears natural).

Step 2: Identify your “global” position.

What is the company you work for? If it is a big corporation that everyone knows, just say the name of the company. If it’s a smaller company that the person you’re talking to might not be aware of, figure out a way to make it relevant.

My last (and hopefully FINAL) full-time corporate job was at Blanks/USA a producer and distributor of die-cut, security and synthetic paper products. Most people, including you, that I needed to explain that to, didn’t know what that means. I started tweaking it to say “I work at Blanks/USA a small paper company in Brooklyn Park”. This would get them closer to the ballpark by sharing the type of product and the location of the company. If I was feeling really fancy, I’d make a Dunder Mifflin joke (building rapport 101) or explain a little bit more about the products such as we make door hangers, greeting cards or pocket folders.

Step 3: Share your speciality.

What is it that you really do at this company that you work at? This is where you can really personalize if you’re feeling creative. Keep it simple by sharing “I work at Big Company XYZ as an IT project manager”. Or, jazz it up. “I work at Even Bigger Company ABC as a Customer Service Manager - or as I like to say - the one who keeps the lines short and the customers happy!”.

I know this is cheesy, but if you can come up with something that is authentically cheesy… that is the stuff that people remember! And really, that is the whole point of your elevator speech, to be remembered.

Final Result:

Piece it all together in a way that feels right to you. Make it authentic and easy to remember. And before you get too fancy, I do think it would be memorable in the wrong way if you didn’t at least start with your name.