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One reason elevator talks don’t get the job done.


Elevator talk:  A short description of what you do and capable of being communicated in the time it takes an elevator to reach the next floor.

Most business professionals spend more time than they’d like to admit honing their elevator talk so they’re prepared to deliver it clearly and professionally.

But, have you ever noticed that most elevator talks sound better than they work?

As soon as someone begins to deliver their talk, everyone else stops listening…except the speaker who is listening to the way the words sound.  The words sound like the speaker is reading the script on the inside of their forehead.

Most elevator talks sound canned, formal, and might I say unreal.


This may be why.  When you begin to construct your elevator talk most people capture what they’re thinking by either writing it down on paper or in a computer file.  When we write down our thoughts we tend to write in complete sentences, using appropriate grammar.

But, we don’t normally speak in complete sentences.  According to Dr. John McWhorter, Linguistics professor at Manhattan Institute, we tend to speak in bursts of 7 words, usually in the form of a series of incomplete sentences.

When someone begins speaking in complete sentences we unconsciously recognize there is a different pattern to what they’re saying.  As the sentences are delivered they sound stiffer than normal conversation and we end up feeling that the speaker isn’t being genuine.  You may feel like you’re being worked.

Even if we don’t recognize the pattern we can still feel that something isn’t quite right about the message we’re hearing.  The overall result is we end up feeling like we need more space so we tend to figuratively move away.

There are at least two alternative methods to let people know what you do when they ask.  Why not try one or both of these?

  1. The first is to write the way you speak with incomplete thoughts.  Try recording answering the question and then transcribe what you said.
  2. The second is to ask if you can answer their question by asking a question.  Then ask a question that engages the listener into a conversation that provides an example of what you do so they’re left with an insight as well as an answer.  (more on this in a later blog)

Whatever method you choose most importantly you need to be yourself.



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