Elevator Speech Strategy: Fill in the Blanks


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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.”


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)


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  • I would expand on your concept of “helping” to say that in all your marketing, communications, messaging, you should strive to focus on the value your work provides to clients, not on what you do with your time.

  • Thank you. Very good strategy and suggestions. A very worthwhile effort toward improving the public’s perception of the legal field and diffusing misconceptions so often associated with the legal profession, as well.

    And . . . great video; I like the look!

    • For the record, it gets cold with no hair. The only pain is finding time for haircuts… I hate that, and paying $20 to cut my hair just aggravates me.

  • I’m sure Kevin is right that all five of his steps are necessary for an effective “elevator” presentation. Because I live and work in mid-coast Maine, however, I don’t spend any time in real elevators (apparently local ordinances don’t allow them); nor am I likely to run into any potential lawyer clients while walking the 20 yards from my house to my office above my garage. My “elevator” is my website (or my blog, or my facebook fan page, or my youtube channel), and yours is too if you’re looking for clients on the internet. For those of us who engage our potential clients initially through a computer screen, I think our “elevator speech” is relatively simple, and consists only of Kevin’s points 3 and 4.

    The main difference between the elevator and the internet is this (and I think it is huge): On the internet, our potential clients are in our elevator (website) alone. In Kevin’s scenario, the potential client asks “What do you do?” (without any notion of what the answer might be) because he’s awkwardly trapped in a metal container with another human. In this setting it makes perfect sense to focus on getting an amiable, productive conversation started, and working from there to establish trust and the potential to help. When that same person happens onto your website, however, there is no social pressure to do or say anything. There is no opportunity to “converse.” You don’t know he’s there; and he knows you don’t know. He can ride your elevator as long as he likes, without uttering a single word, and get off any time without a twinge of compunction.

    On the internet, you’re not looking for the question, “What do you do?” If your prospect doesn’t already know that, you need a new website. Instead, you want him to contact you and ask, “Can you help me?” This is a very different opening question, and one that will never be asked unless and until the potential client already believes two things: (1) You know what he needs–you understand his problem and how to solve it; and (2) he can safely trust in your professional expertise–he can count on you. These are items 3 and 4 on Kevin’s list. Your landing page must provide (or lead to resources that provide) all the information a potential client could reasonably need to reach these two essential conclusions on his own. Deal with these two issues forcefully and persuasively, and you’ll corner your share of whatever market you’re in.

  • GREAT points Jim!

    Your web site has to carry the conversation without you, so you have to answer the question and engage. I think this puts the reason why your web site should be conversational (blog) and not stuffy is incredibly important. Your online personality reflects the human your client might be trapped in the elevator with…

    Again, great addition to the discussion. Thanks!

  • Tim Shelton

    I heard this one: “I help dead people direct their assets from the grave, but they have to plan ahead. Have you made any plans?”