(Sixth in a series about fundamental marketing documents every business needs. The fifth was: The tagline: Still in business after all these years.)
If you’ve sat through a management workshop or read a business book since the 19990s, chances are you’ve been coached about having a polished, 60-second speech ready for that Big Moment when you just happen to be in the elevator with the prospect that you’ve been trying to reach on the phone for the past three months.
Even if you didn’t get a chance to use your speech in such a situation, chances are you did pull it out at a networking event such as a Chamber function or a high school reunion. Like many people, you may have memorized a very official-sounding paragraph that included words such as “leverage,” “maximize,” “results-oriented” and “agile enterprise.”
While the purpose of such language is to impress, the effect is to build walls, not bridges. When the goal of an encounter is sales — and when we are pitching ourselves we are selling — we want to build bridges, not walls. So what is one to do?
Tell a story instead.
Stories are humanizing. Stories are relateable. Stories build connections. People are hardwired for stories — it’s how we learn! People will forget a bunch of gobbledegook that you had a hard time trying to memorize. If you want to be remembered, tell them your authentic story that comes naturally to you. The added benefit is that you won’t have to strain to recall it, and you won’t sound like a robot when you tell it.
How to tell a ‘story speech’
So what exactly do I mean when I say tell them your story?
I mean, don’t give them your job description. And don’t give them your entire resume. Tell them who you are, not what you are. Let me tell you my “elevator” story, as an example:
Over my career, I’ve worked as a journalist, a writer and a PR practitioner in healthcare and higher education. Nearly eight years ago, I started my business, The Buzz Factoree, because I wanted to help small and mid-sized businesses and non-profits tell their stories. I’ve found that I can apply the same storytelling techniques that I used to write news to create marketing that inspires change and produces leads. Through The Buzz Factoree, I provide an approach to marketing that is both personalized and holistic. While specializing in inbound marketing, I also provide public relations and social media consulting.
Depending on the circumstances, I can shorten this and make it more “customer-oriented” by saying:
I’ve found that stories form strong connections between people. Through my firm, The Buzz Factoree, I apply the same storytelling techniques that I used as a news writer to create marketing that inspires change and produces leads.
This will inevitably lead to questions, which can then be followed up with more information. You should have a number of variations of your story. Some should be even longer than the first example. Practice 30-second, 60-second and 90-second variations of your story. It’s important, however, that your story sound natural — not stiff and phony like “elevator speeches.”
The next time you are in a networking situation and everyone is passing out business cards and asking the ubiquitous question, “what do you do?,” you’ll be a stand-out with your personal story. But don’t think you can do it off the cuff — go write one now!