Q: What do you do?
A: [Insert elevator speech here.]

You must have a great an answer—because your elevator speech strategy is critical to effective professional networking, niche marketing, brand development, and even your social media strategy—but have you ever really thought about it? You should, but you don’t have to make it complex. Most people screw it up. They screw it up by answering the questions completely.

Don’t do that, because you’re missing a great opportunity if you do. Rather than completely answering the question in 30-60 seconds, craft your elevator speech answer to achieve these goals:

  1. Plant a seed of curiosity.
  2. Begin a conversation.
  3. Shift the focus to the person asking the question.
  4. Establish yourself as a trusted advisor and expert in our niche.
  5. Reposition the legal industry as a “helping” profession.

You can do all of this by filling in the blanks in this elevator speech template.

“I help ____________ [insert your target client such as “creative people”] _______ [insert verb such as “solve,” “protect,” or “plan”] ____________ [insert your favorite project/case such as “business,” or “family”].”

The key here is to NOT just say “I’m a _______ lawyer,” because nobody wants to talk to a lawyer, especially in an elevator where one might potentially be trapped for hours. Additionally, “I’m a ______ lawyer.” stops the conversation cold without any chance to begin the conversation.

The “I help . . .” response almost requires the first person to ask “How do you do that?” Now we’re talking. Now we’re having a conversation. Now is when you drop the “A-word” or the “L-Word” on them. Now you can say something like “I’m the attorney that helps the inventors protect their intellectual property.”

Helping

Humans are not programmed to dislike people who help others. Somehow, we lawyers have misplaced that element of our reputation and paid dearly for it. Working the word “help” into the first 30 seconds of a conversation with a new aquaintance in the context of your personal idenity and the legal industry can only—well, help.

Here’s a video about this approach to elevator speeches from my Fuel The Spark: 5 Guiding Values for Law and Life ethics CLE workshop. (Yes, I used to shave my head. And yes, it still freaks me out a bit to see what I looked like.)

What are some of your favorite approaches to the elevator speech?

(photo credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecherches/3537627917)