by Marcia Hoeck
I’ve always had an intense dislike for elevator speeches. I’ve fought the idea tooth and nail. They never came naturally to me and they never sounded natural coming from anyone else, either. Many times, I’ve seen them repel rather than attract.
So I’ve taken a page from Lois Kelly’s book, Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word of Mouth Marketing, and now use a conversational marketing approach instead.
In her book, Kelly describes how traditional marketing and communications don’t really help people talk. They inform, promote, direct, and describe, but they don’t help jump-start conversations that get people to say (and I love this phrase Lois uses to test if a subject is conversational),
“Gee, that’s interesting, tell me more.”
Has anyone ever said that to you after you’ve given them your elevator speech? If so, you can skip the rest of this article. But chances are your elevator speech makes people’s eyes glaze over, just like most everyone else’s does.
Surveys say people don’t trust companies, and the only way to gain back trust is to communicate in new ways, according to Kelly. In addition to traditional marketing and communications, we need to create conversational marketing approaches, and have something interesting to talk about. One way to do this is with meaning making — which helps make sense of an idea and shows people how it relates to what they already know. When they don’t see meaning, people tend to become skeptical and indifferent.
There are steps you can take towards making meaning and uncovering talk-worthy ideas. Here’s how to apply this to replacing your elevator speech.
Talk to the five-year-old
It’s been proven that meaning can most effectively be conveyed by tapping into the five-year-old in your client through stories and conversations. Here’s how Kelly suggests we get that five-year-old to really “hear” our messages:
The five-year-old likes to argue and reason, and uses words like “because”:
You need to explain “why” and “why not.”
The five-year-old uses five to eight words in a sentence:
You need to keep it brief, and use short sentences.
The five-year-old is interested in cause and effect:
You need to explain, “If we do this, then this will happen,
if we don’t do this, that will happen.”
The five-year-old understands and uses comparative terms:
You need to use analogies to help him understand.
The five-year-old enjoys creating and telling stories:
You need to tell stories. Storytelling is one of the best ways
to help people understand, retain, and repeat ideas.
The five-year-old likes to use swear words:
You need to use disruptive ideas and language to get attention.
(Notice the word “disruptive” — I’m not suggesting you swear at people instead of using an elevator speech. But you might need to shake them up to get their attention.)
Connecting with the five-year-old and making meaning when introducing yourself and your business just might help you start conversations — instead of talking at people — giving you the courage to ditch your elevator speech for good.
What stories can you tell? What disruptive ideas can you use? Jump-start the conversation by engaging your audience and capturing their interest.
Illustration courtesy of Jason Bacher
1.When meeting people for the first time, what can you explain about your business in “why” and “why not” terms? What cause and effect statements could you make about your business? What analogies can you use? What stories can you tell? What disruptive ideas can you use? Think these through ahead of time so you generally know what directions you can talk about. One caveat: no memorizing!
2. To make sure your language is basic enough, try it out on your own five-year-old, or borrow someone else’s. If you do this step, you’ll find memorizing a speech really isn’t an option, anyway.
Get ahold of Lois Kelly’s Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word of Mouth Marketing
Take a look at Marty Maxwell Lane’s article Be Selfish. Make Your Presentation Work for You.
Learn tips from Marcia Hoeck on how to strengthen your business.