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By Alex Kaczmarek

A beginner's guide to elevator speeches

Given that there is so much competition for jobs nowadays, one has no choice but to arm oneself with the necessary tools to set oneself apart from the competition. An elevator speech does exactly that. I'm going to teach you all you need to know about elevator speeches.

What is an elevator speech?

An elevator speech is a memorized monologue about yourself that lasts about 30 seconds. Its purpose is to quickly demonstrate your essential value to a potential employer in a very short amount of time. You might one day be standing in an elevator next to the manager of a company you really admire. A well-rehearsed elevator speech could be the difference between getting your foot in the door and missing out on that dream job.

The speech should include your name, where you currently work (or go to school), what your passions and skills are, what value you bring to the table, and what your goal is. I was taught that a fine ending for an elevator speech is to ask the listener to exchange business cards.

The speech should be as streamlined as possible. There should be no filler words. Be careful, though, you don't want your speech to sound rehearsed or robotic. You want the listener to think that you're a natural conversationalist. Practice with anyone you can find: your family and friends, your roommates, complete strangers, etc.

What does an elevator speech do?

Value. The speech is meant to communicate your value to the employer. It also gives you a competitive advantage over those who do not have one. So take the time to make sure your speech does what it's supposed to do: impress.

You end the speech by asking something of the listener, usually. That's the other thing the speech does. After you've communicated your value to the listener, you tell them your goal or you make a request of them. You tell them how they might help you. If it's an easy or reasonable request, 99 times out of 100, they'll say yes. Like I said above, I would always just ask to exchange business cards. This is a very professional and mature thing to do. Immature college kids do not have business cards. Adults who are focused and career-oriented have business cards. (It's a good idea to have personal business cards if you're going to take this approach.)

Who is an elevator speech for?

The obvious answer is that the speech is for you, but the speech is really for all parties involved. Don't forget that one of the key points of the speech, communicating your value to the listener, means that the speech is not only for you. Your speech is designed to tell the other person why they should care that you exist. Having a really good speech will make them care.

What does a good elevator speech look like?

Here is my elevator speech from back in college.

Hello, INSERT LISTENER'S NAME. My name is Alex Kaczmarek. I'm a marketing student at Florida State University. I'm specifically interested in advertising and marketing research. I love dealing with data, but I also have a passion for being creative. But mainly, I'm just trying to make the most of my time in college by making as many connections as possible. Would you mind if we exchanged business cards?

When I say I had this memorized verbatim, I mean it. There were no "ums" or "you knows." There were planned pauses so I could take breaths. I probably said these exact words to more than 50 people during my time in college. The more people you speak to, the higher your chances are of success.


Remember, the elevator speech is a short monologue, no more than 30 seconds, that tells the listener who you are and why you matter. The speech also allows you the chance to make a polite request of the listener.

You should constantly be improving your elevator speech. It took me about 100 times rehearsing it to get it just the way I liked it. Perfection should be your goal. Even if you can't make it perfect, you can get pretty close.

Make sure there are absolutely no filler words. It's only 30 seconds long, you can do it!

Do not forget that this may be your one chance to speak with the listener and to tell them who you are. Clearly, they have something you want. Find out what it is, and ask for it. The worst they can say is no.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

If you follow this guide, you'll have an extra-sharp tool in your arsenal that you'll be able to unsheathe whenever you need it. And it's such an easy tool to acquire, there's no excuse for your not having one.

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