One Minute Before Your Elevator Speech

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We all want to know how to give the best presentation we possibly can, when it comes time for an elevator speech.

What they don't teach you in Business SchoolWhen you speak, do you talk with authenticity and conviction?  Do you come across with an enthusiasm that others might describe as… Droopy?

True, Droopy is hilarious, but not exactly inspirational. How can we overcome the natural response to public speaking: fear, withdrawal, and nervousness?  I mean, have you experienced that fear-based shutdown, in front of a group?

Let me tell you:  I have.  That statement may surprise you, but it’s true – and that memory, though long ago in my past, serves as a constant reminder of how I fight the fear every time I speak to groups.  (I couldn’t do what I do without that memory, and it’s not something I’m proud of. But that’s why I’m committed to helping others to make sure they never make the same mistakes I have!)

Here are some quick ideas on how to prepare before your elevator speech

  1. SMILE: most people think of an elevator speech (or any speech) as something worse than visiting the dentist.  Surprise your listener; enjoy what you are saying.  A simple smile can make it easier to listen. Surprises are disarming (in a good way) and it makes it easy to listen to what comes next.
  2. BREATHE , TAKE YOUR TIME:  Even if you are on a deadline, even if time is of the essence, even if fear is gripping your lungs… You still have the ability to take a breath, and take your time. Gather your thoughts, and it will help you to avoid the dreaded “Um”.  As John Wooden said, “Be Quick…But Don’t Hurry”.  Get your bearings, and then – get going!
  3. ENERGIZE YOUR PRESENTATION: If you want to be compelling (and, by the way, all elevator pitches are persuasive) you need to make sure that you care about your subject.  Otherwise, how do you expect your listener to care? Remember, your audience has never heard this before. Start strong, and you never know what good things might happen once you start speaking.

What has helped you, just before a presentation? Where do you place your attention, and why?

Chris Westfall is an award-winning MBA instructor at the Business Leadership Center at SMU’s Cox School of Business.

Headline image courtesy of Laughing Squid, used under creative commons license.  Some rights reserved.

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Video Studio Picture from Benjamin Harrison