Lloyd Corder - The 3-Floor Elevator Presentation

Most people will decide whether they like you or not within the first few moments of meeting you.  They spend the rest of the meeting trying to prove or disprove their first impressions.  Sad, but true.

An elevator presentation is supposed to be a short overview of you (your company, products, services) that takes 20-30 seconds to deliver.  By the time you ride from the 1st to the 5th floor, your audience should know some important insights about who you are and what you do.

Because elevator presentations are presentations—and not one liners we commit to memory and repeat over and over again—they need to be flexible…like the difference between someone speaking from notes (which sounds natural) versus someone reading (which usually sounds terrible).

In helping thousands of professionals and students over the years, they’ve found that most elevator presentations can be built with three simple sections.

1st Floor: Start with a "concept" statement.

One of the greatest obstacles to marketing success is your inability to communicate what you do and the types of customers you’re looking for—in just a few seconds.  The reason is because most people talk from their own worldview and don’t bother to put things in a way that’s exciting and interesting to their listeners.

When someone asks, “What do you do?”  You have three basic choices in your answer:

  • Titles: Many people simple list their area of focus, such as a doctor, lawyer, banker, plumber, teacher…
  • Products/services: Others talk about what things they do or sell, like legal services, banking, retail, insurance, software development…
  • Concept: What works best is to phrase things from the prospect’s point of view or the outcomes that you deliver, like “saves time,” “increases profit,” “reduces waste”…

The problem is that the first two approaches sound like everyone else.  Do a Google search and you’ll find thousands of people who describe themselves by their titles or products and services.

Some years ago, I heard Mark LeBlanc, author of a very short book called Growing Your Business, use this concept statement:

“I work with people who want to start a business and small business owners who want to grow their business.”

That sounds really different from I’m a consultant or I sell training programs.  It says what you do, but in a way that’s way more interesting to your audience.

These concept statements are deceiving!  They seem easy, but they can take a long time to refine and polish.  The best test to see if they work is see if anyone can remember it and repeat it back to you.  After several months of using and testing one I use, I came up with “I help organizations figure out how to more effectively sell their products, services and ideas.”  To me, that sounds better than we do marketing research and consulting.

2nd Floor: Include professional bullets.

Once you have a concept statement, then you need some more talking points.  I call the ones related to your job and profession, professional bullets.  You only need 3-4 of them.  And you can build them by answering questions like these:

  • What does your company do?
  • What do you do at your job?
  • If you were explaining what you do to a child, what would you say?
  • How long have you been doing it?
  • What markets do you serve?
  • How do your customers benefit from working with you (or using your products and services)?

One of the bullets I use is, “I’m a business school professor working in the real world.”  I go on to explain that I do the same things a business school professor does (which I also happen to be), like research, teach and consult.

3rd Floor: Include personal bullets:

Not everything is always about business.  Sometimes, it’s important to share a few things about yourself that aren’t related to work.

  • What do you like to do for fun?
  • What would we find you doing on your day off?
  • What is something interesting or unique about yourself that other people might not know?

I’ve gotten a lot of laughs out of this personal bullet:

“A few years ago, my wife and I won the lottery.  Isn’t that great?  But it wasn’t the Pennsylvania, Ohio or West Virginia lottery.  It was the twin daughter lottery.  And a few years after that, we won the single daughter lottery too.  I’m proud to tell you that I’ve now accomplished one of my life’s goals…I’m surrounded by women.”

Someone in the audience is a twin, has twins themselves or knows someone who is.  It says something personal about me, but not too personal or weird that it makes them feel uncomfortable.

This 3-stepped formula works.  You’ll have to play with it and refine it.  Some of my clients have even printed and laminated their information in the size of a credit card so they can pull it out and hide it in their hand when they present (it helps them remember what to say when their mind goes blank).

For more details and examples of elevator presentations, check out this guide.