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The Elevator Speech: Getting Your Point Across in 30 Seconds

By: Neil Baum, MD, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana | Posted on: 19 Jan 2024

Neil: “Hello, my name is Neil Baum.”

Stranger: “What do you do?”

Neil: “I’m a urologist.”

Stranger: “Excuse me. I need to speak to someone over there!”

I know this has happened to me more than I wish to remember. Being a doctor usually does not create curiosity, interest, or desire to continue the conversation. What is needed is an “elevator speech.” An elevator speech tells your story in 30 seconds—the same time it takes for an average elevator trip. Done right, it prompts the listener to say, “Wow! I need that” or “Wow! Tell me more.”

An elevator speech is a concise and compelling way to introduce yourself and your expertise in a short amount of time. This article will discuss the ingredients of a well-crafted elevator speech and an example that may help you create interest when talking to someone you have yet to meet.

Here are the 4 steps to help you with face-to-face meetings, telephone conversations, and answering when someone says, “What do you do?”

Step 1: Deliver A “Wow!” Headline

We are bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of messages each day. Radio and television ads are 15 and 30 seconds. Newspaper headlines are, on average, 7 words long. Short, concise, and infused with passion—that grabs our attention. You want to hold your recipient’s attention with your first few words. Think about reading the newspaper or watching the TV news. Headlines are the hooks that draw the listener in by telling the juiciest parts of the story without telling the whole story. A powerful headline is concise, between 3 and 7 words. Use active verbs. These are 2 formats that serve as a guide for creating headlines: “We are like [noun] for [noun]” and “We help [verb] your [blank].”

Step 2: Explain the “How”

Following the headline, explain how you will achieve the promise stated within the headline. The explanation should be 1 to 3 sentences. Remember to keep jargon to an absolute minimum. Your goal is to focus the listener on you for a few moments and ultimately motivate them to spend additional time with you.

Focus on who, what, how, and why. For example: (1) who: we are affiliated with XTZ Hospital; (2) what: we provide same-day appointments and early morning and late afternoon appointments; (3) how: using state-of-the-art technology to accommodate patients when they need assistance; (4) why: we can meet the needs of patients with medical condition ABC; (5) what makes us different from an efficacy point of view: we can accommodate referrals the same day they request an appointment; (6) what makes us different: we have been affiliated with the hospital for more than 20 years, helping to provide excellent patient care using state-of-the-art technology including telemedicine, a patient portal, and artificial intelligence; and (7) problems/issues we solve: efficiently managing acute and chronic problems.

Step 3: Offer A Success Story

Great stories accelerate your ability to connect and enhance your credibility.

It is your job as a storyteller to enhance your credibility. During each encounter, offer a warm smile, firm handshake, and eye contact with the listener. Share your headline, explain the how, and then provide your success story.

A success story heightens their interest and increases their emotional connection. A great success story for an elevator speech is told briefly and tailored to your listener’s needs. A success story is 1 to 3 sentences. Your total elevator speech should be between 50 and 100 words. Spoken at an average conversational pace, it should take you 30 seconds or less to say.

Step 4: Offer Additional Information

If you have captured the listener’s attention, offer more information, such as your website, social media links, or information you can email to the interested listener.

Bottom Line: The elevator speech is the opportunity to showcase your areas of interest and expertise. When you have the recipient’s attention for even the briefest moments, you might consider having an elevator speech prepared to communicate your message.

It may take you from the ground floor to the top of your ability to connect with others.