The Elevator Speech

elevatorBack in the tech boom of the 1980s, venture capitalists were so swamped with applications for money that web companies—particularly new ones—rarely got more than a few precious seconds of their time to sum up why they should be funded. The elevator speech was born out of that necessity, essentially requiring a person to deliver his or her key points in no more time that it would take to ride up or down on an elevator.

Today the elevator speech is being used by job candidates to quickly sum up their qualifications at job fairs, networking events, and other venues where hiring managers may be present. In increasingly competitive markets like respiratory care, it can be a good way to make a great first impression on managers who could further your career.

Doing that in 30 seconds or less, though, can be a real challenge. Here are a few tips from the experts on crafting an elevator speech that will get the job done—

Three questions: A good elevator speech will begin with the answers to three key questions: Who are you? What do you do? What are you looking for? Keep it simple. For example, if you’re relocating to a new city, say something like, “Hi, I’m Jeff Jones and I’m an RT with ten years’ ICU experience at General Hospital in Denver looking for a similar position here in Atlanta.”

WIFM: After you state who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for, it’s time to shift gears to the only thing the hiring manager really cares about, and that’s “what’s in it for me.” Use benefit-driven words to drive home the value you could add to the team. In other words, “I’ve worked under therapist-driving protocols for the past seven years that saved my hospital more than $500,000 a year” is much better than, “I delivered respiratory care on the floors and in the emergency department.”

Practice makes perfect: Yes, you should begin by writing your elevator speech down. But remember that good formal writing does not always translate into good spoken language. You want your speech to sound natural and unaffected, so read it out loud numerous times and run it by family and friends and ask for their honest opinion. If you sound like you’re just reading something you wrote down and then memorized, you’re not doing yourself any good. Your speech needs to sound like it just flew out of your head, even though you may have been working on it for days.

Have several versions ready: While the typical elevator speech should wrap up in about 30 seconds, there may be situations where you have a little more time to get your message across. Be ready with some add-ons that will further elucidate your key points. You might also want to craft different speeches for different specialty areas within the profession (pulmonary rehabilitation, diagnostics, home care, etc.) or occasions (job fair vs. a meet and greet at an AARC state society conference or event).

Be confident in your delivery: Regardless of what you plan to say, make sure you say it with conviction of purpose. Make good eye contact, put on a nice smile, offer a hearty handshake if the situation warrants, and exude enthusiasm for the profession of respiratory care and the patients we all serve.