Does Your Elevator Speech Stop On The Wrong Floor?

An essential tool that transcends the boundaries of the business world and the nonprofit sector is the ability to deliver a quick, interesting, useful introduction of yourself and your organization. Job-seekers and sales professionals aren’t the only people who are coached to perfect this tactic-it is extremely useful for nonprofit professionals as well.

Even if yours is not a “fund-raising” board per se, it is important that your board members are equipped with the tools they need to be your best champions and ambassadors in their business and social lives. Helping them develop a well-crafted elevator speech is key.

So does your elevator speech miss its destination?

It does – if it’s too long. Two minutes is a lifetime. Tighten your elevator speech to a well-packed, easy to listen to three-sentence statement that doesn’t exceed 30 seconds. It is far better to deliver essential information at a reasonable pace than to race through or slur your words.

It does – if you are too generic or state the obvious. “Fighting cancer is a challenge.” Don’t waste precious time telling people what they already know–get past the “what” and to the “why” or “how.”

It does – if you’re using industry specific jargon or don’t explain acronyms. (“I do the H&E intake for ACD and disperse the CFFA funds for Sec. 8 recipients,”  etc. Design your elevator speech for a complete stranger who is not an insider or industry peer.

It does – if you leave out key facts (like your own name, or the fact that all services are free).  Write out your elevator speech, practice it, and test it with a friend who will give candid feedback.

It does – if you wing it and don’t take advantage of the situation. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

It does – if you wind down with a shrug or embarrassed smile and end with, “..and I guess that’s it.” This is a micro-presentation, so it should have a beginning and an ending.

Our advice is to develop a strong, fact-filled statement and then memorize it. But rather than sounding like a recording, you should deliver it comfortably in a conversant tone. Here are 10 tips to ensure that your elevator speech arrives smoothly:

1.    Remember the rule of 3’s —  three sentences and 30 seconds. It’s also hard for anyone to hear a series of words that goes on too long. “We provide counseling, referrals, and conflict resolution” is easy to grasp. “We do mentoring, counseling, training, outreach, a food bank, cooking classes, child care, and home visits” is a lot to take in. Don’t try to tell it all.

2.   Include your role: are you a volunteer? A board member? Which staff position?

3.    Include geography or location:either where your offices are located and/or the precise area you serve.

4.    Be specific: not just “we help seniors” but “we check in weekly on homebound seniors” or “we help older adults find local, affordable food to help maintain a healthy diet.” In fact, lovely as the word “help” is, it is imprecise and open to many interpretations (it may mean “pay for,” “provide referrals to,” “mentor” etc.)

5.    Include phrases that define or refine: “within income guidelines,” “by referral only,” “for adults over age 60,” etc.

6.    When you’re in a go-around-the-room situation, be ready with a quick but friendly greeting (“Good afternoon”) and an ending (I’m new to the group and look forward to being involved.”).

7.   Here’s a trick: figure out a way to comfortably repeat the name of your nonprofit toward the end of the elevator speech – usually in place of a “we.”

8.    Always have a specific call to action: your new web site, your upcoming event, who you’re currently recruiting as volunteers. If your organization doesn’t have a standing open-house briefing once a month, why not start? Your elevator speech can then end with, “You’re invited to tour our facility on the first Friday of every month at 9 a.m.”

9.   Make a conscious effort to smile when you speak. If you’re not energized by your work, why should we be? Practice in front of a mirror until your smile and eye contact comes naturally. Listen for careless “uh,” “well” and “you know” and make sure they’re eliminated.

10. Always have plenty of business cards right in your packet, or in a pocket. It’s astounding how many of us forget this essential practice.

Here’s a sample elevator speech that incorporates all of these tips:

Good morning! I’m Steve Williams. I am the development director for YouthPower, a startup nonprofit located in East Park Hill. Our volunteer mentors  are high school seniors who meet weekly with 10th and 11th grade students from East High School to explore making positive choices–in school and within their relationships. YouthPower is currently looking for free or low-cost meeting space that is on the #15 or #20 bus route and available weekday afternoons. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *