The Proverbial Elevator Speech

Every time I hear the term “elevator speech,” it makes me cringe. I know it serves a purpose and I’ll talk about that in a minute, but most people use an elevator speech to talk “at” people – about themselves – far too often. That is especially true when one is in job search mode. Think about a wife talking at her husband, or vice versa. How much listening is really happening? Or, is the other person …

– planning what s/he is going to say next;

– mentally wondering what else is on his “to do” list;

– trying to determine how soon he can disengage from the me-centered conversation; or

– strategically scanning the room to see who else is there?

That is a consequence of using an elevator speech when a back-and-forth conversation would be much more effective. Such communication is much easier when you understand your value and can articulate it in problem-solving language. When asked what do you do, there are conversation stoppers and more intriguing conversation hooks with which to respond. For example,

I am a CFO for XYZ Company; or

I help small mid-cap companies meet their growth objectives.

The first response is typical and completely misses the value piece of a message. Short of something like how long have you been there, the conversation is on its way to a quick end. Conversely, the latter response invites a follow-up question. If you are skillful at handling the follow-up questions, you can keep the conversation flowing while simultaneously creating rock-solid problem solving positioning.

Save your elevator speech – that 60-to-90 second spiel that tells people about you – for round table networking events and when answering the question “tell me about yourself” during an interview or in a conversation with a recruiter. At that point, it is both appropriate and useful because your written marketing documents (resume, cover letter, leadership brief) and digital footprint have already answered the value question.

Proverbial or not, I do not believe an elevator speech is appropriate when you are standing in an elevator or attending a networking event. Talking at people will never be as effective as engaging people by talking with them.

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017


Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email, by phone 813-727-3037, or through her website at