An elevator speech is a roughly 30-second introduction of who you are and what you do (the length of a brief elevator ride). Explaining what you do succinctly is sometimes a real challenge, even for those of us who work with words.
Live networking is still important for professionals, editors included. This might mean attending an editors’ conferences (like ACES 2017, coming up shortly), or it might be meeting with potential clients, going to networking events with other professionals, or introducing yourself at a social gathering.
Here are some techniques for crafting and giving an elevator speech that is authentic and comfortable.
Tip 1: Relax
There’s no need to get worry about getting it right or delivering it perfectly. This isn’t a graded presentation or a command performance. Concentrate on describing what you do.
Tip 2: Keep the Real Goal in Mind
No one will hire you at the end of a 30-second speech; no elevator pitch will clinch the deal. The most relevant goal for an elevator speech is to start a conversation. Conversations lead to relationships, and relationships lead to opportunities. This is a long-term game. Don’t pack your whole résumé into your introduction.
Tip 3: Tailor Your Speech to the Audience
Think about whom you will be networking with and speak to their knowledge level. If you are introducing yourself to other editors (say, at a conference for editors), you can be safe assuming they understand the lingo and will understand what you do with minimal explanation. If you are in a group of nonpublishing people, you should put your intro into more accessible terms.
- Intro for editors: “I’m Mary, and I copyedit scholarly nonfiction.”
- Intro for nonpublishing people: “I’m Mary, and I help university presses publish the best books they can by editing text for spelling, punctuation, grammar, clarity, and flow.”
Tip 4: Keep It Simple
Identify a couple of the most important things you want the other person to remember about you. Keep it simple and clear—too much information will overload the listener.
- Just right: “I’m Ben, and I copyedit for self-publishing authors with military memoirs.”
- Too much: “I’m Ben, and I edit and proofread World War II memoirs from self-publishing widowed Army retirees from Mississippi. I don’t have a lot of experience yet, and what I really want to do is book doctoring for millionaire businessmen. One day I’m going to retire to Switzerland and eat a lot of chocolate and learn to yodel.”
If the listener is intrigued, they will ask follow-up questions, and you can expand the conversation.
Tip 5: Practice
You don’t have to worry about getting it perfect, but a little practice will ease your nerves. If you rehearse the basics of what you want to say, you can inject your introduction with your natural energy instead of worrying about remembering all the words. Alone in the car is a great time to practice!
Tip 6: Ban Belittling Words
In a live exercise where people practiced their elevator speech, many were astonished to hear how often they minimized or belittled their own experience. Ban such words as “just” or “only” or “it’s not that big a deal” from your intro. “I’m just a proofreader” doesn’t inspire confidence. “I’m a proofreader at a magazine” is a clear articulation of what you do, without minimizing your work. When you practice, you’ll start to hear these words creep into your introduction, and you can work on using other, more positive words.
Tip 7: Have a Business Card
Have cards handy and easily reachable, so you won’t be fumbling around in a bag or jacket pocket trying to grab one. If you get down to your last card, invite the other person to snap a photo with their smartphone.
Now is the time to start crafting your introduction. Even an introvert can comfortably give an elevator speech. Practice now, and we’ll see you at the conferences this year!
Want to learn some more great conference tips? Check out our ebook, Surviving and Thriving at Conferences: A Guide for Editors.