What is the idea behind an “elevator speech”?

How many have actually delivered an elevator speech?  Winston Churchill once said, “I’m going to give a long speech today.  I haven’t had time to prepare a short one.”  An elevator speech is a 30-second to two minute promotion used by you as an overview to yourself, your company, or a product, service or idea that you are marketing.  Your speech may be the only chance you get to make a good first impression.

The term “elevator speech” represents the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary of a topic in the time span of an elevator ride.  In other words, an elevator speech is a short summary of the work that you perform, or a point you would like to make in the time it takes an elevator to go from the top floor to the first floor or vice versa.  If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and valued, the conversation will continue after the elevator ride or end in an exchange of business cards or maybe a scheduled meeting. 

The purpose of an elevator speech is to have a prepared presentation that grabs the attention of a potential customer and that says a lot in a few words. 


How to create an elevator speech?

  1. Focus on the problem that you, your product, service or idea solves.  Ask yourself, what would I want to see or hear?  What would encourage me to find out more?  Write all of your ideas down on paper as quickly as possible, unedited. 
  2. Review your first draft for clarity, consistency and conciseness.  Ensure that nothing you say contradicts anything else, that it makes sense and that you sound sincere and knowledgeable.  Your potential customer must find what you say intriguing, but he must also trust you.  Once you have edited your draft start cutting out extraneous words.  Your goal is to say what you need to say in 100 words or less. 
  3. Comb through your speech and find the single concept most likely to grab attention.  Make the attention-getter your lead statement and said in close conjunction with your name.  An example is “ Hi, my name is Karen Dobbs.  My new vacuum helps everyone save an average of 15 percent on their cleaning time and costs less than a dinner at an expensive restaurant.  Please let me know if you would like to know more. 
  4. Practice saying your speech into a recorder so you are able to replay and hear yourself.  This will help you to get a natural flow.  Your goal is to make the speech as natural and as enthusiastic as possible.  You do not want to sound insincere.  The listener should feel that you have their best interest at heart. 
  5. Practice your speech on a live audience and refine it based on feedback. 


Elevator Speech Do’s and Don’ts


  • Make your elevator speech sound effortless, conversational and natural
  • Project your passion for what you do.  Be warm, friendly, confident and enthusiastic. 
  • Use easy to understand language and avoid the use of acronyms.
  • Take it slowly.  Don’t rush through the speech.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Incorporate examples and stories to help support your points.  Stories make your speech memorable.
  • End with an action request, such as asking for a business card, interview or meeting.
  • Practice your speech.


  • Don’t forget to update your speech as your situation changes.
  • Don’t hesitate to develop different versions of your Elevator Speech for different situations and audiences.
  • Don’t let your speech sound canned or insincere.


 By Karen Dobbs, IUPUC

Works Cited Page







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