When you give an elevator speech, you’re briefly telling someone what you do or provide. If done right, you’ll spark someone’s interest by explaining the value to them of what you or your product is about, and to stimulate further action. It’s not, repeat NOT, a sales pitch.
The term “elevator speech” derives from the idea that one should be able to share the most essential information in the time it takes an elevator to go from, say, the ground floor in a tall building to a high-numbered floor (e.g.,10-30 seconds). If your overview is intriguing, the recipient may be persuaded to ask for more information.
Writer’s Elevator Speech
For a writer, an elevator speech is a short message that tells someone what your book or other written project is about and what benefits the reader or listener could receive from reading it. Your speech should be intriguing, and it should explain what distinguishes your work from those of your competitors.
An elevator speech is not designed to sell your work; the goal is to arouse someone’s curiosity enough that he or she wants to learn more about it. Asking one or more intriguing questions will give the person something to think about.
An effective elevator speech takes preparation and practice (writing and re-writing). You have to keep working at it. Try it out with some of your friends, co-workers or colleagues whom you can depend on for some honest feedback.
We once met someone whose business card had her elevator speech on the back of it. And, no, it wasn’t in 3-point type. Just as with Twitter, where you only get 140 characters to say what you need to say, an elevator speech has to be short and punchy, getting right to the point without wasted words.
Elevator Speech Before You Start to Write
Too often writers jump into their project, writing the Introduction or Chapter One without even having an outline or Table of Contents. They get lost before they’ve even begun. It’s not that they don’t know what they want to write; it’s more a problem of having too much to say and not being sure how to distill it down to the real essentials. That’s where the elevator speech helps — by clarifying and defining what this piece of work is and why you’re writing it.
First, get your ideas down on paper, in as few a number of words as possible. Then edit — and keep editing until you have the essential content defined.
Elevator Speech as a Book Introduction
Once you have your elevator speech down, you have the makings for a good Introduction. Just as with the elevator speech, your Introduction needs to intrigue readers, explain what’s in it for them and why they should read your work. Since the Introduction is normally the first thing readers will see, an effective one will entice them to go further, maybe even buy your work.
Elevator Speech Used for Presenting Your Book to an Agent or Publisher
Agents and publishers are bombarded with manuscripts on a daily basis. Why would one of these busy people bother to look at your work? The answer might be a well-written introduction and/or a well written cover letter — basically your elevator speech.
An Elevator Speech Doesn’t Always Take Place in an Elevator
You have 10-20 seconds to pique someone’s interest and stimulate further action. If you’re not face-to-face, where body language helps with the conversation, you’re going to need a great opening. Make it an attention-getter that’s designed to cause readers or listeners to ask a question. This allows you to provide more details. Share just a few tidbits, in a conversational voice, without giving everything away. Tease your audience into wanting more. Avoid using jargon, unless it’s common knowledge. Most of all, remember to provide a value statement.
Tell your potential buyers (in your writing, in person or on a website) how they’ll benefit from reading your work. Remember, most people make a buy-decision emotionally and later justify it rationally — so, as the slogan goes, “sell the sizzle, not the steak”.
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