Elevator Speech 2.0 = Elevator Dialogue

Apr 2013
Issue 33

Ellen Johnsonby Ellen Johnson

The world as many of us once knew it has changed. The pace of business has increased dramatically, and we are interconnected now more than ever with the emergence of mobile phones, email, voicemail, texting, Skyping, Facebooking, and other new modes surfacing in the market on what seems like a daily basis. This veritable smorgasbord of communication channels makes it very difficult to distinguish yourself or your company, and yet being able to set yourself apart and to avoid being drowned out by the noise and clutter is vital to your overall success.

What can you do to set yourself apart?

How do you differentiate yourself in this fast-paced world? How do you make the biggest impact on someone when you first meet them?

As we’ve all heard, we often have only about 30 seconds to grab someone’s attention and hook their interest in us with our kernels of information. Many espouse that the best way to fill that 30 seconds is with what’s referred to as the “Elevator Speech.” The basic notion behind the Elevator Speech is that you should be able to explain who you are, what your company does, and what differentiates you from your competition … all during a short elevator ride. As many of us have experienced, that’s a pretty tall order even for the most well-rehearsed speech, and I expect that there are more than a few of us who would agree that we need a much longer elevator ride to be able to say everything that needs to be said.

So, one big problem with the Elevator Speech is that it’s very difficult to articulate what your company does in a short, concise manner and, if you are challenged in doing so, you’re going to lose the impact you’re trying to have and you could lose any connection with that person.

The second and, in my opinion, the biggest problem with an Elevator Speech is that the information being delivered from you to someone else is by definition pretty one-sided. It does not engage the other person.

Rather than trying to run through your one-sided elevator speech, think about the impact you could have if you slowed down and involved someone in a conversation? Experience tells us that we learn more about each other when we engage in a dialogue. Engaging someone in an Elevator Dialogue rather than an Elevator Speech can have quite an impact.

Elevator Speech vs. Elevator Dialogue – What’s the difference?

The difference between an Elevator Speech and an Elevator Dialogue is simple. An Elevator Speech is just that – a speech. You are giving someone as much information as you can in a short amount of time. The premise is that in 30 seconds the elevator doors will open and that person will be gone. You can only hope they remember something, anything about you and your company.

But what if, instead of a speech, you engage them in conversation through an Elevator Dialogue. The Elevator Dialogue starts out the same as the Elevator Speech by sharing a bit about who you are and what your company does. The difference comes in when, instead of continuing on ticking off specific talking points about your company, you ask the other person a question and invite that person to join the conversation.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. You are Kevin, and you’ve just been introduced to Brian, the Product Manager at Greenway Company. You’ve been trying to get your foot in the door there for years. Brian asks you to tell him about yourself, and you launch into your well-rehearsed Elevator Speech.

Kevin: Brian, my name is Kevin Madsan. I’m the Product Specialist at Meshlink. We are the leading producer of mesh packaging products in the nation. We have offices in 40 states and are expanding into new markets every day. Our patented technology allows us to develop a product that is strong, light weight, and cost efficient when used with small- to mid-size packaging sizes. We have standard size mesh products, and we can customize our products to meet all of your packaging needs. Here’s my business card. I’d welcome the opportunity to set up a meeting with you to discuss how our packaging can work for your organization.

Brian: Thanks, Kevin, but we’re already doing business with Meshforce. Their product has served us well for the past 5 years.

In this example, Kevin did his best to get all of his talking points out and to ask for a meeting, but it ended with an unsatisfactory result. If Kevin had used the Elevator Dialogue approach instead, here’s how it might have played out:

Kevin: Brian, my name is Kevin Madsan. I’m the Product Specialist at Meshlink. We are the leading producer of mesh packaging products in the nation. We have offices in 40 states and are expanding into new markets every day. Our mesh packaging is light weight and cost efficient when used with small- to mid-size packaging sizes. Do you use mesh packaging?

Brian: Yes, we’ve used Meshforce’s QR 18 and QR 20 products for the past 5 years.

Kevin: I’m familiar with both of those products from Meshforce, and they’re both quite good. At Meshlink, we have a product that’s very similar – the difference is that, with our patented technology, we’ve been able to develop a product that’s stronger and lighter. And our price is competitive with Meshforce. Companies that use our product have saved thousands of dollars in their overall production and shipping costs. I know your time is limited, Brian. I’d like to schedule a meeting with you to show you how our product can save Greenway money.

Brian: Kevin, I’d like to learn more about your products. Here’s my card, call me tomorrow to set up that meeting.

By engaging in an Elevator Dialogue and not a speech, Kevin did not close any doors and was able to find out fairly quickly that his product was something Brian would be interested in learning more about. And he was able to get a commitment to set up a meeting!

When you think about your Elevator Dialogue approach, remember the following:

  • Keep your message simple. Like with an elevator speech, you want to have your key message at the ready. It should be simple enough to remember at a moment’s notice.
  • Be prepared. You never know who you’re going to meet. You need to have your dialogue well-rehearsed so that you’re prepared to talk to anyone at any level within an organization.
  • Use language everyone can understand. Avoid jargon and techno-speak. You don’t want to lose your message in jargon.
  • Ask questions to get the other person talking. This is the crux of the Elevator Dialogue – engaging the other person in a dialogue with open-ended questions.
  • Listen closely to how the other person answers your questions. Where possible, map your products/services/skills to what the other person is telling you.

So, the next time you meet someone new, consider having an Elevator Dialogue with them. Who knows, they may not get off at their floor and instead ride the elevator all of the way to the main floor to continue the discussion with you.

Next month:

ROI for Change Management?

The need to address the people side of change makes intuitive sense, but leaders may be hesitant to make significant investments in change management programs because they are not confident they will get meaningful return on investment. That part seems altogether too squishy. Next month, we will explore the latest thinking on quantifying the benefits of structured change programs.