Fred the marketing consultant is at a networking event.  He’s explaining his business:

We provide CMOs with best-of-breed, next-generation, scalable solutions that optimize revenue and enhance customer value.”  Fred drones on “We act as a change agent empowering a paradigm shift using a value added synergistic approach that enables clients to take a deep dive.”


Mary, the woman next to him, is falling into a boredom induced trance, a common occurrence at networking events.  She will awaken shortly, driven by an uncontrollable urge to run to the bathroom (and get away from Fred).

Fred’s speech violated my Ten Commandments.  It’s a sales pitch.  It’s boring.  It’s pompous.  It’s gibberish.

Here are Ten Commandments for an effective elevator speech.

1.    Thou Shalt Be Brief

Keep your “speech” to less than 60 seconds and stick to the basics:  (1) Your Title; (2) Your Target Market; and (3) The Problems You Solve.  You can elaborate if asked or if the opportunity arises (see The Fourth Commandment below).

2.    Thou Shalt Be Specific

Be very specific about your niche.  You offer a very specific set of services to a very specific market with a very specific set of problems.  You’re a specialist.

3.    Thou Shalt Engage Thy Colleague

It’s not all about you.  Your goal is not only to explain your business.  It’s to start a conversation.

You also want to help your colleagues.  Ask questions so you understand their businesses.

Go back and forth to exchange information.  It’s a two-way street.

4.    Thou Shalt Emphasize Results

After an initial back-and-forth, your colleague may ask for more information about your work (or give you a glassy stare that suggests she doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about).

Respond by describing the problems you address and the results you achieve.  This helps colleagues understand what you do by giving them real world examples.

5.    Thou Shalt Tailor Thy Speech to Thy Audience

Know your audience.  You wouldn’t give your mother the same speech that you’d give to a Fortune 1000 marketing exec.  Your mom is smart but probably doesn’t understand your business.  You need to explain it in basic terms.

You can be a bit more technical with the marketing exec.  But beware of using jargon.

You also should be prepared with a 30 second, 60 second, and 90 second speech, each to be given as the situation dictates.

6.    Thou Shalt Not Pitch

Your “speech” is not a commercial.  Repeat after me:  ”My speech is not a commercial.”

You’re not pitching a movie script.  You’re starting a relationship.

By emphasizing The Fourth Commandment (Results), you can use facts to showcase your expertise.  Don’t brag.

Offer proof.

In a matter-of-fact way, cite statistics and results.  You’re not trying to impress your colleague.  You’re just trying to clearly explain your business.

7.    Thou Shalt Not Bore Thy Listeners

Fred, the hapless networker, apparently knows nothing about body language.  Mary, the woman he put into a trance, was looking bored all along.  If someone gives you a glassy stare, you’re not connecting with her.

Don’t just drone on.  Break the pattern.  Ask a question or cite a concrete example.

Despite all that, some people are lousy listeners (aka networking zombies) and will never absorb or react to what you tell them.  In that case, it’s time to move on.

8.    Thou Shalt Not Speak in Strange Tongues

Don’t be like Fred.  Don’t talk in Consultant Speak.  Use plain English.  Avoid terms like “scalable”, “best-of-breed,” “next generation” and the like.   These are meaningless buzz words.

Smart, successful people don’t need to describe their work in highfalutin language. Your listeners won’t be impressed.  They’ll think you’re showing off.  That’s a sure fire way NOT to get referrals.

9.    Thou Shalt Not Talk Endlessly Yet Say Nothing

“…we strive to perform with excellence, while providing the most comprehensive service possible. With such a spirit of collaboration present here, we know we can…deliver exceptional service that is truly value-added.“

This is a quote from a law firm website.  It tells the reader nothing.  Anybody could say that.  Stick to the facts: what you do, whom you serve.  Differentiate yourself.

10.   Thou Shalt Not Claim to Do Everything for Everyone

All-things-to-all-people is a common affliction among consultants.  Define your niche clearly. Your colleagues want to refer specialists, not generalists.  Don’t worry about positioning yourself too narrowly.  You’re likely to get more referrals that way.