This blog post was written by Ellie Weiss, our Campus Ambassador at Iowa State University. Follow her on Twitter @weiss_ellie.
I have been to more than my far share of conferences in hotels and it never fails, I always end up in the elevator with a co-worker who I have never actually talked to before. Not only am I in the elevator with him or her, I am riding more than 7 floors with the person. After my first awkward elevator encounter, I decided I should put together an elevator speech about myself. I know I am not the only one who has taken a ride up or down in silence with a co-worker, so here is a list on how to construct and execute the perfect elevator speech that will not only break the awkward silence, but will allow you to open your wings and be that social butterfly we all know you can be.
1: Know your audience. There is a wide variety of people who you may run into in the elevator or at the hotel bar if you are at a conference or a large meeting, so be prepared to ride up with the CEO or a sales rep. You will be more likely to wow your elevator-mate if your speech is clearly targeted.
2: Know yourself. Before you can convince anyone who you are, what you are doing and why you are an important asset to the company, you need to have a clearly outlined description of your job and yourself. You may just be the intern who interacts more with the coffee grinder and the copy machine than a human being, but hey, you are doing something that benefits the company so show it! Jot down your background, key strengths of yours and adjectives that come to mind when describing yourself. Also include what you are trying to let others know about you and lastly, why you are interested in the job or company you are currently interning for. Being professional is great but you want to show that you have more to you than just your work. Take into account your hobbies; family and school, which can strike a personal connection such as your shared hatred towards your school’s rivals, or that you both have dogs named Sparky.
3: Finalize your speech. Now that you have outlined your ideas, you can finalize your speech. The key to doing this is to expand on the notes you made by writing out each section in full. Take each note you made and write a sentence about it and connect each sentence together with additional phrases to make them flow. Just like editing a speech for a class, edit this elevator speech by going through it and editing any long or unnecessary words and change certain jargon into elevator language. You don’t want to come off pretentious, but at the same time you don’t want to sound childish. The final step is to compress your notes into two or three key talking points; generally things that could be follow up questions or statements. When putting together those talking points, make sure your entire speech is around 100 words. You do only have 30 seconds to a minute to make a personal connection while convincing them that you are the best intern ever.
4: Make it Interesting. Try to think of a couple jokes before stepping foot into any elevator. Beginning any elevator speech with an anecdote or joke can break the tension and give you a direct lead into your name and your crafted elevator speech. While the elevator goes up, so should the person’s interest level. Instilling a sense of interest and passion in your speech is the most critical aspect to your elevator speech. If you don’t care what you are talking about, why should they?
5: Finish Strong. Thanking the person as well as having your business card handy is a great way to end the conversation. By making sure you have each other’s contact information is a great segue to setting up a follow-up call, email or meeting. The last way to perfect your speech is to practice! Refine your elevator speech so that you are comfortable with the information in any situation. You may not always be in an elevator with another intern; it may be the big-wig you have wanted to talk to for ages.
You only have that one short ride to convince that person why they should remember you when they step off on the fifteenth floor, so making a good first impression is imperative. Networking is becoming a huge part in the success of your career and a well polished elevator speech can enable you to make a contact, exchange your information, spark their interest and build a connection that will hopefully lead to a bright future. In review, you need to introduce yourself, define what you have to offer, explain why the information matters and how it is beneficial to them and lastly finish with thanking them and exchanging contact information. Enjoy the ride, Interns!