Ah the elevator speech…two words that personally always mystified me. What does it mean and how do I use it to my advantage? Recently I was hanging out with a group of other industry people, some young professionals like myself and other seasoned veterans in business. It's interesting to hear so many perspectives on the matter, but some themes emerged that I found really useful. Let's think of it as the 5 T's: Tweaked for the audience; Truth; make it about Them; be able to Talk the talk; Two minutes or less.
Tweaked for the audience
No two situations are the same. For instance, a client dinner with the Coke Zero Brand Manager is much different from the VP of Marketing at Facebook. They have different interests and are most likely different people. So for scenario one, you might want to play up your knowledge of the consumer packaged goods industry and mention something Coke specific. I might also mention that I worked on a Coca-Cola project for a student advertising campaign back in the day because it's relevant. However, in speaking to the Facebook person, my Coca-Cola project isn't as interesting or relevant, so I would have a different anecdote prepared. All of this means you need to do your homework and bring up the applicable experiences. Overall, keep in mind that you never need to spout out your entire resume; rather, you want to tailor the conversation as appropriate if you wish them to remember anything.
Be yourself and tell the truth. If you make something up to impress someone else, most likely it will come across as in genuine and turn the other person off anyway. Just be yourself and come up with talking points that are relevant, yes, but also TRUE. People appreciate passion and honesty.
It's about Them
When you run into a VP in the elevator, what's the first thing you want to say? I'm so-and-so and I have done x,y,z and maybe you heard about project x that I worked on…yada, yada, yada. You know what that VP just heard? Nothing. It's great that you have done so many amazing things, but if you really want to capture their attention in this small window of time, make it about them. For instance, "I read about this side project you are working on that will up efficient production of product b." Engage and admire them in your dialogue. Think about it from your own perspective…when someone starts engaging you about something you are passionate about and seemingly "patting your back" it makes you feel good and ultimately leads to positive feelings towards that person. We are all human beings at the end of the day and want to feel good about ourselves. So play to those egos and put yours on the sideline and you will quickly impress those executives who prior to this encounter couldn't remember your name, let alone some project you worked on.
Talk the Talk
Do your homework. If you want to engage that executive, you can't talk like you are still in college, throwing out "like" before every sentence. Learn the jargon and ultimately the business of those you hope to engage. Going back to the Coke Zero example…do your research on the company. Pop into a grocery store or a drug store and seek out the product. Check out the packaging and messaging and talk to people who are buying the brand. By arming yourself with this knowledge and going the extra mile, you are arming yourself with invaluable talking points once you run into that VP. They will be impressed with your passion and will most likely be more interested in talking further with you later.
Two minutes or less
It should be a short, quick snapshot of who you are and what you want that person to remember. It doesn't have to be rehearsed, just keep several different talking points on hand so you can employ all the guidance above depending on who you run into in that hypothetical elevator!