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Six reasons to bag the elevator speech

John Heckers //September 29, 2010//

Six reasons to bag the elevator speech

John Heckers //September 29, 2010//

If you’re looking for an executive position, you, doubtless have been told that you need a “good elevator speech.” Like most pieces of conventional wisdom by the ivory tower theorists who seem to run the job search field, this piece of advice is probably dramatically reducing your chances for employment. Here’s why.

1). Most elevator speeches stink. I’ve heard hundreds of elevator speeches. I’ve been tempted to tape them for nights when I have insomnia. Virtually all elevator speeches are too long, too boring and given in a mechanical manner.

2). Elevator speeches don’t tell me what I need to know. Most elevator speeches don’t give me the vital information I need to refer someone or help them in other ways. They don’t tell me the title the person held, the accomplishments the individual had, or what the individual’s ideal job would be. In short, they tell me nothing except the teller is unemployed, which I already knew.

3). Most elevator speeches are too broad. Those giving elevator speeches usually want to cram in everything they’ve ever done…in two minutes. This is too long for an elevator speech and too short for a résumé. Those searching for work are so desperate now (a big mistake) that they are terrified to actually give me their past titles, past duties, or anything that could prevent them from being open for anything that pays a paycheck. This means that no one can help them in a specific way.

4). Most elevator speeches are mechanical. When I run my monthly Executive Structured Networking event, I hear about 25 elevator speeches. Frankly, they could be interchangeable. Most use tired old phrases that mean nothing, delivered in a sing-song fashion, by people who obviously don’t want to be networking. Unfortunately, this delivery and attitude will prevent you from getting a job.

5). Most elevator speeches are filled with jargon. No matter how great you think your elevator speech is, it isn’t going to work at all if no one can understand you. And this is the case with about 90% of elevator speeches. They are loaded with industry and business jargon that may or may not be shared with the person to whom the speech is being delivered.

6). Most elevator speeches don’t say how you’re unique. If I hear one more time that a technical person is also a “people person,” I’m likely to go postal! I’m tired of hearing things that supposedly make someone stand out that makes them just like everyone else. Figure out what makes you truly unique, not what everyone else is saying.

What works better than an elevator speech? Here are a few things.

1). Don’t give your elevator speech at all. When you go to a networking event, let the other person speak first. Then, if the individual is someone who can help you and visa-versa, indicate this and ask to meet for coffee.

2). Don’t drone! Spend some time figuring out what you really want to say at coffee. Make it into a conversation, not a monologue. Leave the boring and un-amusing monologue to Jay Leno.

3). Speak your passion. Have you noticed how, when someone is talking about what they love, their whole being changes? By talking about your passion, you will find far more interest, and far more help. If you aren’t passionate about anything, you need to call the undertaker, because you’re dead. If you have lost your passion, it is time for career counseling.

4). Find what truly makes you unique. If you cannot state what truly makes you unique, you’re going to be among the long-term unemployed. If you don’t know what makes you unique, get help from others to figure it out. Ask former co-workers, employers, family and friends, what you and you alone bring to the table, then concentrate on that in networking.

5). Borrow a 10-year-old. If a kid can actually understand what you’re saying when you talk about your work history, you have probably gotten rid of enough jargon. Until then, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

I know that every book you read and most transition coaches will disagree with me in my hatred of elevator speeches. However, our clients have found that getting rid of the elevator speech has been much more effective than honing one.

Employment is about relationships. Engage in real conversation, not a canned commercial. That, in and of itself, will make you stand out from the crowd.

Please join John and many of your colleagues for our Executive Structured Networking on Monday, October 11th, 5:30 – 9 at the DAC. More information and registration is found here. {pagebreak:Page 1}