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Top 10 Elevator Speech Mistakes

By Veronika (Ronnie) Noize, the Marketing Coach


Everyone knows that a great elevator speech can attract the clients you want like a magnet. Your elevator speech, that seven-to-nine word distillation of the value you offer to a specific market, is probably your single best marketing tool. And yet, many people choose to ignore all the rules about what makes an elevator speech great, and then they wonder why their elevator speeches aren't attracting the right clients (or any clients at all!).


Even worse than that, a so-so (or a just plain bad) elevator speech can actually work against you, by repelling those very people you hope to attract.


What to do? By all means, avoid the top ten mistakes people make when crafting elevator speeches:


  1. Not articulating the value or deliverable of your service. If you mention your process rather than your results, you've lost whatever resonance you may have begun. Remember, your elevator speech is about what your client gets, not what you do.
  2. Not identifying your ideal client. By not being specific about whom you help, you miss the opportunity for your prospects to self-identify by thinking "hey, that's me!" or to come up with a prospect for you by thinking "that's not me, but it sure sounds like Bob." The only time to use the word "people" or "individuals" in your elevator speech is if you qualify it by following it with "who are..." not "people who want..." Seems counterintuitive, doesn't it? But don't assume people understand their own wants; bet on the fact that they at least know who they are, so that they can identify themselves (or others to whom to refer to you) if you describe them clearly. Better yet, dodge that bullet and call them baby-boomers, teen-agers, coffee drinkers, job seekers, or whatever description fits your ideal client best.
  3. Having a long and obviously memorized speech. People stop listening after 11 words, unless you sound like you're reeling off a memorized speech, in which case they stop listening after just three words. If it sounds memorized, people know you're not really opening a conversation but trying to sell them something, so they'll stop listening immediately. After all, wouldn't you?
  4. Beginning with "My business is..." That's just verbal offal that takes up your listener's time and attention, which is better spent on hearing what wonderful results you get for your lucky clients.
  5. Ending with a sales request. You haven't even qualified your client yet, so why would you ask for the business first? There is a time and a place for everything, so fashion and use your elevator speech appropriately, which is to attract a specific client, and not to push every person who crosses your path towards the sale.
  6. Using hackneyed questions or phrases. These brand you as a "technique-y" or a neophyte. You may have just heard that fascinating question, but incorporating it into your elevator speech is not the right way to use it. Questions like "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" are interesting to use in sample sessions or qualification conversations, but definitely not in (or tagged onto) your elevator speech.
  7. Using non-sequiturs. A non sequitur merely a statement that does not follow logically from what preceded it. I've heard some egregiously bad ones, but the worst are when people use some sort of a tag line like "Once is never enough" and shoehorn that into their elevator speeches. If you get blank stares when you introduce yourself, you may be using a non sequitur. Don't.
  8. Using incomprehensible language or jargon. Unless you have a very narrow ideal client description, and you are already speaking to those people who both fit your ideal client profile and will recognize you as an insider for using jargon, don't use it. And stay away from long words with multiple or vague meanings that people might not understand, even if you know what you mean. Someone who provides "robust multi-use business enhancement options" is selling nothing of value to anyone (even if there's a good product or service behind that knuckleheaded phrase). Or do you really believe that there are people out there that will perk up and respond to such an elevator speech by saying, "Gee, I could really use some of those robot multifaceted business trance operations?"
  9. Using the wrong intonation. Teen-age girls are known for ending their sentences on high notes, so that every statement they utter sounds like a question. If you're doing this, you will sound tentative, unsure of your own value, and let's face it, like a gawky  gauche teen. Practice your elevator speech with a trusted friend, your coach, or even your spouse until you can say it like you mean it, and like you believe it. Even the right words delivered the wrong way will call your credibility into question.
  10. Improvising. If you haven't got a prepared elevator speech, you're playing with fire, and running the risk of really embarrassing yourself. Most people talk too much without making a point when they improvise, or worse, they stop (sometimes more than once!) so that they can start again. Do I really have to tell you how very unprofessional that sounds?

OK, so your elevator speech is just killer, and you're not making any of the mistakes listed above; are you golden? Could be, but then again, maybe not.


After your killer elevator speech is crafted, you still have to develop a great follow up statement. Since the entire point of a great elevator speech is to elicit one reaction ("Oh, yeah? Tell me more!") you must be ready with a response. That response might include a slightly more elaborate version of what you do, success stories and examples, as well as questions to qualify that person as a prospect or a referral.


Get that down, and baby, you will be golden!


Read more articles or view Top 10 lists.


Veronika (Ronnie) Noize, the Marketing Coach, is a successful Vancouver, WA-based entrepreneur, author, speaker, and Certified Professional Coach.  Through coaching, classes and workshops, Ronnie helps small businesses attract more clients. For free marketing resources including articles and valuable marketing tools, visit her web site at, or email her at


Top 10 Elevator Speech Mistakes 2003 Veronika Noize.  All rights reserved.


"I help small businesses attract more clients."
~Veronika Noize, the Virtual Marketing Coach

Veronika Noize LLC
The Virtual Marketing Coach

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