Going Up? How an Elevator Speech Could Help

You’re no doubt familiar with the concept of an elevator speech; you’ve probably been told you should write one for this or that idea, or to snag such-and-such a client. But did you know that Ronald Reagan, the U.S. president nicknamed “The Great Communicator,” used a similar technique for connecting with his many audiences?

Photo: Matt Ward, www.iseethelight.com

This factoid is just one way in which Terri L. Sjodin touts the unsung importance of the elevator speech in her new book, Small Message, Big Impact: The Elevator Speech Effect. She marries the succinct communication tool with the butterfly effect, a scientific-turned-cultural meme that insists one seemingly-insignificant action can have outsized effects.

Sjodin posits that the elevator speech has changed significantly since it was first “invented” (likening the difference to that between Pong and Wii). She also insists that the tool is suited to all kinds of professionals (not just in sales situations) and demonstrates examples of how it can be employed outside the elevator to great success.

But really, the book itself and the messages in it are not exactly revolutionary. But that’s OK; Sjodin doesn’t need to convince us that quick, well-thought-out speeches are potentially game changing and worth having in one’s rhetorical back pocket (especially in this era of shortening attention spans). She just needs to show us how to do it.

This is where she excels. You can tell right away that Sjodin is the consummate coach. Once you dive into the chapters on creating your elevator speech(es), it feels like Sjodin is your own personal communications trainer. Readers won’t find it difficult to believe she wants them to succeed.

That doesn’t mean your intentions will be realized at the end of your three minutes. Sjodin both acknowledges the long preparation hours required to perfect effective communication packages and notes that the speech really functions as a step toward your ultimate goal. That first speech, if executed properly, should get you more time with the object of your pitch, or a step up the decision-making ladder. “Just advance the ball. Don’t go for the touchdown,” Sjodin says.

Sjodin expertly explains the fine line between data dumping and the hard sell. Through smart role play exercises and useful documents and forms available for download at her web site, readers get as much of the workshop treatment as they can from this accomplished communications coach.

The book also tackles the intangibles of a perfect speech. I have to imagine writing a chapter attempting to teach people to be creative is not easy. She includes some excellent examples (and some not so excellent ones) of people using unconventional means to get an audience’s attention. But Sjodin also offers prompts containing ideas on how to replicate the creativity of those examples in one’s own voice.

Truly, that’s the focus of this book: How to tap into your passion and produce results in three minutes flat. Aaand, go!

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]realtors.org.

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