Elevator Speech: The One Time When Being Clear Makes Your Marketing Bomb

Whether you’re developing your personal brand or your business brand, there is likely one marketing must-have that you’ve thought about a TON, created multiple versions of and, quite possibly, haven’t yet nailed.

It’s the Elevator Speech.

And if you have written one – or tried to – you already know it’s one of the most difficult marketing pieces to do well.

To understand why, take a look at the definition of an elevator speech in conjunction with its context (when it’s most commonly used):

Definition of an Elevator Speech: A very short statement that explains what your business is and what you do. It’s all about clarity, right?

Context of an Elevator Speech: When meeting someone for the first time. Here, it’s all about creating interest.

While it’s nice to think that simply spewing out a short statement that explains your business and what you do, works in the context of meeting a potential prospect for the first time, it doesn’t.

The definition of an elevator speech misses the whole point of the context.

To write a great elevator speech, don’t focus on what an elevator speech technically is, but on what it’s for:

Purpose of an Elevator Speech: To intrigue; to interest someone you are meeting for the first time in talking to you further.

So, if you view your elevator speech as a statement that’s supposed to explain everything in one fell swoop, you’ll likely write an elevator speech that does little to further the conversation.

Instead, view your elevator speech through the eyes of its purpose. Doing this will make you far more likely to write an elevator speech that sparks curiosity, creates interest and generally engages the person you are meeting.

In other words, thinking first and foremost about the real purpose of an elevator speech helps you write one that encourages further conversation.

So, how do you write an elevator speech that accomplishes its true purpose, rather than fulfills its standard definition? After all, explaining what you do in a way that fills in all the blanks is a heck of a lot easier than writing one that sparks curiosity.

One of the best ways to begin is by exploring metaphors, similes and symbols that represent what you do:

  • “I wake up sleeping geniuses.” (a coach)
  • “I’m like super glue for teams.” (a team builder)
  • “I help CEOs see through the fog.” (a coach)
  • “I help companies create the future.” (a technology specialist)

Literally, an elevator speech can be (and really should be) as short as that.

It’s far better to have someone ask, “What does that mean?” or even, “Huh?” than to have them say, “Oh, okay.” leaving you scrambling for how to keep the conversation going – a situation that typically leads to a mundane next step, “So … do you work with a technology specialist currently?


You can see the power of metaphor-ish elevator speeches that are designed to accomplish the true purpose of an elevator speech even more clearly if you look at one in comparison to an elevator speech written per the definition:

“I wake up sleeping geniuses.” vs. “I’m a business coach who helps people reach their full potential.”

If you were the prospect, which would excite you more? 

My coaching clients have been able to come up with super intriguing elevators speeches, even though they are not writers by trade, using the metaphor exercise. Here are some real examples (again, not all are metaphors per se, but you’ll be able to see how starting with the metaphor exercises helped shape the result):

  • I teach people how to live upside down.
  • I help people live with the lights on.
  • We’re Sherpas to the mountain of success.
  • I’m the mastermind behind the relationship revolution.
  • We’re the missing link in the org chart.

This type of curiosity-sparking elevator speech can come quite easily once you’ve looked at your business as a metaphor (maybe generating a page of possibilities) – and also after digging deep to understand your personal or business brand inside out.

To get started, simply ask yourself:

  • What is my business like?
  • Or: My business is the WHAT for my target audiences?

If you’re creating a personal brand, ask:

  • What am I like?
  • Or: I am the WHAT in/for the world?

It does take a bit of exploration, but it’s so worth the work to have an elevator speech that actually has a chance of making something interesting happen.

To breaking through on elevators.

How do you pull off a metaphor-inspired elevator speech without sounding like a goofball?

The answer is really about having confidence and faith in your brand.

When you develop an elevator speech that captures the essence of what you do and what your business is about, it’s going to resonate strongly with you and it’s going to feel VERY RIGHT, too.

It may take saying it a few times, for sure, before you feel totally agile using it. But you might also be surprised by how easily it comes because it does resonate so deeply.

The examples listed for real clients were very easily embraced by them, because they are truly based on the bigger brand story the client developed and loves – a story that has real substance for target audiences and which doesn’t end with the elevator speech.


This type of elevator speech is designed to start a conversation.

It’s not supposed to wrap things up neatly and make everyone feel comfortable. It’s supposed to spark something.

Sure, straightforward feels “safer,” but when you think about all the potentially profitable conversations you’ll end short, rather than start up, you’ll begin to see that, really, being perfectly clear is a heck of a lot riskier.

P.S.S. The waking up sleeping geniuses idea belongs to someone publicly known – I just can’t remember who!)


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