Why I Don’t Buy the One-Minute Elevator Speech

I’m afraid I am a heretic of business communication. I don’t buy into the one-minute elevator pitch.

Actually, I’m totally into the idea of a compact presentation of one’s self and one’s business. I just have three issues with the one-minute elevator pitch:

  1. The one-minute
  2. The elevator ride
  3. The pitch

It’s too many words, for too long, and it’s trying to accomplish too much.

For your opener, I believe in the the Fifteen-Second Memory Dart – a single phrase with a vivid image that can be delivered before the elevator door closes.

Here’s an example:

Q: “Good to meet you, Michele Price. What is it you do?”

A: “I’m the Digital Media Splash Agent – I employ my on-line platform to amplify my clients’ promotional efforts during product launches and trade shows, so they can impact a much larger audience.”

BOOM! Vivid imagery. Concise explanation. Clear offering. One sentence summary; no forgettable monologue. Dart, meet bullseye. And, it certainly helps to have a reinforcing visual.

This opening verbal dart accomplishes three things:

  • It makes you immediately memorable. You’re leaving an image behind via an effective word picture.
  • It very quickly establishes if there is a potential area of need (not only with that individual, but with someone they might know).
  • It opens the door to say more by invitation, at which time you can take 30-60 seconds to tell a condensed story.

I have a lot of common perspectives with Chris Westfall, who is positioned as the (NEW) elevator pitch guy. But I think introduction-by-pitch is one step premature. In the first 15 seconds, we need to capture attention, be memorable, and provoke an invitation to tell the story. That’s what a memory dart does.

I will warn you – it sounds easy, but creating your memory dart one of the hardest communications challenges you’ll ever face. Distilling purpose/offering/message to one sentence and wrapping it into an image or analogy takes tremendous creativity and hard work. But since this is your first foot forward in every professional introduction, where your goal is to cut through the fog and be remembered – nothing else is more important.


Are you Memorable? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Make Your Life a Story, not a List

>> Are You Standing Out in the Field?

About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

18 Responses to Why I Don’t Buy the One-Minute Elevator Speech

  1. What a great week, not sure I have been able to see a post only minutes after it was published. It is funny Steve how I have gotten such a positive response to the Digital Media Splash Agent since I quietly started rolling it out this weekend. ( more to come this month)

    You are right, it was not am easy task – as good as I am with everyone else’s messaging – I needed your help to nail this one and I am grateful for our clarity sessions.

  2. Steve – the key in this whole post for me is to share the memory dart and then *by invitation* share more. Too often in an “elevator pitch” no one asked for that much info or for that level of detail. The memory dart makes the overture, hopefully you’ve done well enough to pique their curiosity for more. Well said.

    And Steve, what’s your “memory dart”?

    • My memory dart? For Clarity Therapy, it’s this: I help people and companies get 20/20 clarity on their professional DNA, direction, and message.

      Or, you could put it this way (5-second dart): Differentiate in less than a day!

    • I should add that I have 2 memory darts, one for each of my businesses (the other business is a client/vendor “matchmaking” service based on trusted referrals). For that one, I use an analogy:

      “I’m the eHarmony of pharma training and marketing vendor selection.”

      It took me 18 months to arrive at that analogy, but it has had more memory-driving impact than anything else I’ve done promoting the service.

  3. I like your idea of a visual image, described quickly. However, my reaction is that Michele’s response loses potential impact because of the jargon overload. Simpler, plainer language would work more effectively.

    Again, I applaud the strategy, yet can’t praise the example.

    • Bill – you’ll rarely find a more strident critic of jargon than me! That said, the terms used depend on the audience. A key part of Michele’s USP is that she has an existing on-line audience and message “amplifiers” (internet radio show, etc.) that will appeal to forward-thinking marketers. She’s created a platform. That summary may well fall flat with other audiences that aren’t her target market. But that’s the hidden benefit – the quick summary quickly differentiates between potential customers, and those who aren’t going to “buy” us.

    • Love to hear what you think would be a better example Bill.

  4. I agree with Bill. Love the memory dart concept, but there’s no memorable imagery in the example. You lost me at “employ my on-line platform.”

  5. Tom Furlong says:

    I have to hand it to Steve- since he started the Clarity Message theme (and I created my own 10-word ‘memory dart” I have been able to capture much greater attention at trade shows and through written communication. As Steve’s response to Bill above states, you sometimes have to add “jargon” when dealing with specific audiences/targets. Be flexible and have multiple darts at the ready in your quiver.

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  8. Christina says:

    I have been working on, and researching, the elevator speech to come up a speech of my own and have been struggeling. I like the idea of making it shorter and more memorable. However, what if you are offering more than one service? I am a creative, technical writer and an environmental educator.

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