In today’s climate it’s wise to consider yourself and your skills as a marketable product to be advertised.

When you’re asked … “So – what do you do?” “ Tell me about yourself” or “ What are you going to be speaking about today?” can you instantly give a graceful and fluent answer so the interested stay interested, the not so interested get interested and the really not interested are not bored and annoyed? Stumbling over your answer won’t leave a good impression on them – or yourself.

You need an Elevator Speech, prepared, polished, and ready to use whenever you have a minute or two of their undivided attention. It’s the ability to ‘sell’ what you have to offer in 30 seconds. It can give you a confidence boost to know you sound interesting and can help your networking. The Elevator Speech should be prepared well in advance and honed to perfection before you need it.

Focus on your strengths, qualifications and USP [unique selling point] – it should answer questions like “Why should I come and listen to your presentation instead of the other two?” and “Why should I buy your services, not theirs?”

Opportunities to use your Elevator Speech might come when working a stall at or visiting a conference or trade show, when speaking to seniors in your organisation, at promotion boards and interviews, in response to “tell us about yourself”, in the coffee break at a conference or training event – or if the Prince of Wales asks “and what do you do?”

In “Building Your Social and Professional Network,” Vickers, Bavister and Smith recommend you keep it subtle, as people can tell when they’re being pitched at. They suggest you keep your answer short:

“What do you do?” “I help people change”

“How do you do that ?” “I’m a coach and a trainer”

so creating an attractive ‘hook’:

Their criteria for success include:

Keep it brief

Do not include too much detail

Aim to make it tabloid rather than broadsheet

Orient it round a potential benefit

Prepare your own personal brief Elevator Speech, focussing on positive language, advertising your strengths. Refine it, rehearse it and start using it because the more you hear yourself saying it at every opportunity, the more you start believing it.

Speed networking events are ideal chances to try out and practice your speech – and very importantly, to actively listen to theirs, too. Then once you’ve given your speech, be prepared to give them your business card – and of course you always have your business cards on you.