We've all been told it's important to have an elevator speech because you never know who you might meet, whether you're at a coffee shop or at a networking event. But it's also true that you might not have a passion project or hot startup to pitch, and sometimes you're in a social setting in which you want to be "off duty." That's why it's important to have an elevator speech that's related to your personal brand ready to go so you're always able to give someone a well-curated snapshot of who you are.

Personal Brand

Personal branding is happening whether you are conscious of it or not. Your personal brand is really the sum total of your behaviors and choices, be they

  • your attitudes and mindsets
  • how you meet people and stay in touch
  • how people describe you when you're not around

Therefore, it's important not to let your brand "happen" to you, but rather to take charge of it and be intentional. An aspect of that is a solid elevator speech.

Craft your speech

Your speech doesn't have to be long. In fact, we can easily break it down into three components.

  1. What you like to do. What's your superpower? What is something you do very well that transcends your work and that people know you for? Perhaps you are a great matchmaker, or are acquainted with everyone in the neighborhood, or know the best places to get Lebanese food in your city.
  2. Who you like to meet. What sort of people do you enjoy meeting? "All kinds of people" is the wrong answer, because when you put that in someone's mind, you're not giving their brain a chance to track down a match. It's much easier to "name something green in a fridge" than to "name something in a fridge." So, be specific. Maybe you are looking for artists, producers, handymen, or programmers. Maybe you're just looking for someone creative, or organized, or athletic.
  3. How you want to add value. Now that we know who you are and who you want to meet, give us the ammunition necessary to suggest a possible connection for you. Let us know how your talents and the types of people you want to meet will intersect to create something valuable. Do you want to tell people about a non-profit? Perhaps you need volunteers for an upcoming event? You might be helping a friend recruit for his company? Or maybe you just want to add some new people to a group you are already part of.

Examples

"I really enjoy connecting people who are in tech with interesting volunteer causes."

"I like introducing people who like but don't own animals to the work a local shelter does."

"I am looking for those new in town who love to travel to join a local travel meetup that I help run."

In all of these examples you are using the power of specificity to unlock the hidden networks in each and every person. While you're not going to make a connection each and every time you give your elevator speech, you will often leave a footprint in your listener's mind which will be there for them to reference in the future.

Follow Up

All of this is worthless if you don't follow up if and when you actually get a connection. Make sure to take notes so you're not left with a name and an email address and no reason why you have it (we've all been there). With a simple follow up process you can take a casual interaction to a level that can truly change the trajectory of lives, careers, and friendships.

Published on: May 24, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.