Elevator Speech is Best Answer for “What Do You Do?”

2 Minutes Read

How many times do you find yourself in a business or social situation, when a new acquaintance asks the simple question, “What do you do?” How many times are you ready with a coherent, appealing answer—or do you just wing it and hope for the best?

In most cases, I’ve found that people who ask the question walk away without no more than a vague understanding of what the other person does or what kind of business they’re in. That’s why I believe every CEO, business owner and executive should have an “elevator speech” ready when they need it.

Building Intrigue With Prepared Responses

Let’s say you sell insurance. When someone at a trades how asks what you do, should you say, “I sell insurance”? Absolutely not! Your answer should describe the type of problem your business solves with just enough information that the other person gets it. The right answer would be: “We provide peace of mind.”

This intriguing answer will likely prompt a follow-up request for more details. Your response? “We assess a company’s risk and provide solutions to mitigate that risk so the CEO and his or her customers can sleep better at night.”

Here are some additional tips for framing a great elevator speech:

Make it quick.

Consider the average person’s attention span these days. How much time do you have to get your speech across? Experts vary on this, with some saying 15-30 seconds is all the time you’ll likely have in a typical business or social interaction. My belief is you’ve got between a few seconds and 10 seconds to make an impact. Not much time, is it?

Keep things simple.

Don’t use industry jargon or recite statistics. Your answer should be clear and conversational.

Have a “hook.”

Your goal is to interest the other person in your answer, so ideally they start thinking, Maybe this would help my business. Find a hook that gets your audience interested in what comes next.

Your best bet is to come across as relaxed and off-the-cuff with your answer. The trick is that you’ll have to practice to make it sound real. Rehearse your elevator speech for a friend or family member. Pay close attention to your facial expressions and body language as you give it. When you’ve cut out the unnecessary or boring parts, you’re ready to go.

Finishing strong.

When you’re done, ask your new acquaintance for a business card and follow up with a nice note. Then you can walk away from the casual encounter knowing you’ve left the other person hungry to learn more.

Brad Mishlove