You Must Sing Your Song

Amongst the things that my clients have difficulties two stand out.

Firstly is the concept of “Ethical Selling” which seems like an oxymoron to many professionals, that’s for another day.

Second is the “blow your own trumpet” talk; whether that be asking for a referral from an existing patient or telling a total stranger what it is you do for a living (aka the elevator speech). Most people initially find the thought far too “cheesey” or “American” until we have examined the reasons for the talk and decided on words with which they are comfortable.

Another of my favourite people, Molly Gordon has blogged about the elevator speech this week and I would like to share her thoughts. Her website is here 

What is the ickiest thing you can do when you meet a prospective client or referral source?

Hint: It’s something you don’t want to do, but do anyway, because the marketing experts say you’re supposed to.

Yup. It’s giving an elevator speech.
Ickiness in Action

It’s lunch break at the annual conference for your professional association, alumni group, or what-have-you.

You head to your room for a few moments of blissful silence.

And when the elevator door closes, the only other person in the car says brightly, “Hi, I’m Anna. I coach mid-life women to experience their brilliance, connect with their passion, and live their dreams.”

You say, “Wow. Nice to meet you. I’m Molly.” (I know you’re not Molly, but play with me here.)

Anna chirps, “And what’s your niche?”

That’s Icky

Let me be clear. Anna is a peach. In any other context you’d be new best friends.

But her well-intentioned, highly polished elevator speech turned you from a person into a prospect.

And if you manage to answer her question, you do the same thing to her.

You’re looking at each other and moving your mouths, but nothing meaningful is happening.

Elevator speeches don’t work because they feel icky. And they feel icky because they sound like communication, but they’re not.

Because communication requires two parties, both present, both connecting.

Presence and Connection Go Together

When you’re really present, you see and hear the other person, and vice versa. At that point, communication can happen.

But what happens with most elevator speeches preempts presence and connection. Instead, the elevator speech is a well-intended substitute.

That’s why you don’t like to give elevator speeches and why you feel diminished when you hear one.

Allow Me to Contradict Myself

There’s an important exception to the principle of Icky Elevator Speeches, and it has to do with practice.

If you practice your elevator speech until you can say it backwards in your sleep, it can be a powerful means of connecting with others as people, not prospects.

The paradox of memorizing an elevator speech is that when you have it down cold, the motivation for speaking them can arise from the space between you. Because you don’t have to think of what to say, you discover anew the meaning in your words every time you say them.

And if you don’t find them meaningful, you don’t say them.

That’s as authentic as it gets. And it takes heaps of practice.

Time to Choose

If you want to truly connect and communicate about your work with a human being and not a prospect, you have a choice to make.

Face those elevators with so much presence and interest in the other that you can spontaneously speak simply and compellingly about your work.

Or face them with a speech so well memorized that every time you deliver it you discover new reasons for speaking it and new ways that it is true.

Whatever your choice, the ickiest thing you can do is exactly what you thought: give an elevator speech that feels false.

The Last Word, and It’s Good News

Here’s the deal. If you concentrate on being present and connecting with other people as people, not prospects, you will get better at speaking about your work.

It might not happen overnight (though it can and has), but it will happen.

So make a choice and start practicing. And let me know what happens.

You can do this.

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