Ditch Your Elevator Speech: How to Have a Fascination Conversation

Don't fall down the elevator shaft when you give your next elevator speech. Discover the Fascination Conversation and how much easier it is!

In a perfect world, we’d all walk around spewing out clever little sound bites about our businesses.

In a perfect world, we’re also wearing flawless makeup and our thighs are the body part we’re most happy with.

Talking about your business has been so badly represented over the  years that it has a generation of business owners suffering from performance anxiety each time someone asks them what they do for a living.

Here’s an overblown example but you’ll get the gist. It takes place at a networking event or some business mixer where folks are connecting.

Person A: “So, what do you do?”

Person B: “Hi I’m So and So and I can take your business from zero and suffocating to a zillion and thriving following my simple 8 steps that I’ve branded into a signature system and intellectual property and amazing success… oh wait, I mean… Hi I’m So and So and… hold on… Hi I’m So and So… oh, excuse me please I think I’m going to be sick!”

This is the failure (yet again) of the classic “Elevator Speech” or “Elevator Pitch”. In essence, it’s a snappy little 30 second spiel that tells people who you are. Rarely does it gain you fans.

In normal human interactions, we just don’t do things that way.

  • We talk to each other.
  • We go back and forth.
  • We connect.
  • We find commonalities.
  • We listen.
  • We don’t broadcast.

This has been a beef of mine ever since my first networking event when a wild eyed business owner locked her gaze onto me like a tractor beam on the Starship Enterprise. On the receiving end, I suddenly feel claustrophobic. The fight or flight reflex goes into full swing.

And trust me, I’ve been on the “giving” end of this too because I was told that “this is the way we do things”. And you know how I felt? Like I was reciting and I was going to make a mistake. Or that I was such an obnoxious fake, as soon as I got through my spiel I’d high tail it out of the room and never go back again.


Disney guests falling in an elevator shaft on Tower of Terror

We didn’t go into business to hate talking about our businesses. We went into business for freedom, flexibility, unlimited income potential, a way to impact the world around us while making money and achieving financial success. The classic “30 Second Elevator Speech” in my humble opinion, is everything but freedom. It’s a structure that nobody likes and everyone dreads.

So how do you talk about your business?

The first key is this: the most effective way to talk about your business is in a natural conversation. It’s not a broadcast.

1. Develop your listening and asking skills. Post this acronym in your mind: WAIT. It stands for “Why Am I Talking?”

2. If you’re asking someone about their business or someone is asking you about your business, don’t try to get it all out in a single sentence. Chunk it down. Ask someone who their ideal client is. Let them answer. Share with them who your ideal client is. Then ask how long they’ve been in business. Let them answer. Then share how long you’ve been in business. Ask if they’re online and if so, how can you find them? Listen and let them answer. There’s a pattern here. You’re actually giving each other the chance to get it all out there, not doing a recitation face off. (And yes, I just heard that sigh of relief you let out)

3. Let YOU and your personality into the picture. Not everyone wants to stay solely focused on business. You might discover a common love of all things Tom Cruise. (I dedicate that example to my 80 year old mother, btw). Think of those common bonds we humans love to connect on: parenthood, hobbies, family, relationship status, sports, pop culture, entertainment. It loosens things up and takes the pressure off of giving “speeches” and “pitches”.

I call this the FASCINATION CONVERSATION. It’s how great communicators and networkers connect with others. It’s authentic, natural, and doesn’t require you to memorize anything. If you know your own name, what you do, who you work with, and the results people get from working with you, then you can weave that into any conversation without it sounding canned or fake.

Take this tip and use it in your own business. Get out there and talk to other business owners. Ask questions then share. Ask questions, then share.

Remember: Elevators are cramped and smelly. Why take your business on one?

Go for the Fascination Conversation and you’ll discover a newfound grace and ease when communicating about what you do while you build your network.

I’d love your thoughts on this. Actually I’d really like it if you’d try this and told me how it went for you! What excites you most about this approach?

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  • Ameena

    Imagine. We all needed permission just to be ourselves–which is what gets and keeps our clients. Refreshing to let that old elevator speech fade in my brain. Nicely writen.

    • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

      Thank you Ameena! Business should be a joy, not a burden. I look forward to laying a wreath on the Elevator Speech tombstone. :-) See you at the wake!

  • http://www.shannoncherry.com Shannon Cherry

    Bravo! I agree.

    As a matter of fact, I banned the elevator pitch from being said at my recent live experience because they are so trite and boring. (Personally, I didn’t want to roll my eyes at a ton of people ‘cuz that would have been rude!)

    So I say let’s ban it all together. As you point out there are better ways to engage and have a real conversation to start real relationships!

    • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

      Shannon, I think we need t-shirts with the slash through Elevator Speech!

  • http://VisionForSuccess.biz Ali R. Rodriguez

    This shows the importance of being fully self-expressed.  Goes hand in hand with carrying a caring attitude of passion and compassion.  It eventually becomes a natural way of being and the conversation turns into connection that turns into relationship, business or otherwise.

    • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

      Ali, you’re such a great people-person, you’re a master at this!

      • http://VisionForSuccess.biz Ali R. Rodriguez

         We’re standing int he flame of pure LOVE!!!

  • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

    So glad you’re feeling the freedom. That’s what we’re in business for!
    Sent from my mobile phone

  • Anonymous

    Love this!

  • http://www.latarahamying.com/ LaTara Ham-Ying

    Can I just say that you do not know me but lady I think I love you!!! ROTFL!!

    I have been hating the elevator speech thing for years now. The main reason is that memorization is for math facts and I hated math in school. That is what trying to remember what I do and spit it out in 30 seconds reminds me of….2+2= 4. NOT COOL!

    Everytime someone ask me what I do I express it in free form without words that I conjured up to make it seem like I can “catapult your business into the 6 figure realm” with my proven blueprint….REALLY!!!

    Ok so as you see this is a thorn in my side too…ROTFL!!

    Thanks for helping me breathe a little better today! 

    • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

      LaTara, that’s fine and dandy but tell me how you REALLY feel.

      Just be sure “free form” is a balanced exchange. Keep rewriting the rules, you’re doing great!

  • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

    Jeanne, I agree!
    It’s good to have talking points but to release them in convo naturally. Glad this resonated with you.

  • http://www.web-essentials.com/ Pol vanRhee

    An elevator speech the way of your example is horrible. And Iike your alternative. A proper elevator speech is not a speech and is not a spewing of info. It should be an opening to start a conversation. It should arouse curiosity. It should make people want to ask more – which, I guess, is what you are saying here. What’s nice about a prepared, thought out beginning is that it makes it easy for anyone to “begin”. What’s been the problem is that the way it is always taught is to give info, instead of starting people to look into their own brains and searching how it applies to them. So they can respond in conversation. Same as any. Talking instead of “puking”.

  • Anonymous

    TOUCHE Nancy!  As I think you already know, I am a huge
    believer that every business owner should have crystal clear clarity on WHO
    they really are and WHO they really best serve. But I’ll be the first to admit
    that the Elevator Speech does come off as ‘canned’ and ‘fake’.


    Connecting with people in a more casual way is just so much
    more natural and effective. 


    I’m a bartender, and I use these ‘ice breaking’ methods
    every day and they work almost 100% of the time.   And if
    they don’t…well then there was obviously no ‘connection’ there in the first
    place…keep moving on!




    • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

      Tobey, that’s why you’re such a natural at this! I was a waitress all through college (including cocktail waitress which has way too many interesting stories than I have room here to share) and the art of small talk is an occupational must!

      Yet another area of expertise for you to investigate….

  • Yolanda Brown

    I love this post! The elevator pitch is just dreadful to me. I’m going to a networking event tonight and trying this along with the strategy another blogger recently suggested – just ask “what’s your story?” instead of “what do you do?”

    • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

      Yolanda, please come back and let us know how it went!
      I love “what’s your story?”, it’s such a fresh approach to the usual dreaded questions.

  • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

    Oh Sundra, my heart goes out to you.

    You also give me a chance to clarify some things. At times we are asked to broadcast, like if we’re given 1 minute at a microphone or if you’re on stage giving a talk and they use your “speech” to introduce you. In those situations, the most important thing is to balance mentioning the professional skills with some warm personal touchpoints. Those will invite private conversations where you can connect on an even deeper level.


  • Sheryl

    THANK YOU for this Nancy–for those of us who have struggled with the dreaded ‘I have to tell you everything about me and what I do in 30-60 seconds syndrome without even taking a breath, you are a breath of fresh air offering more ease and enjoyment in networking and connecting from the heart. Flowing with a natural conversation is so much more engaging and fulfilling!

    • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

      Engagement is such a big topic, this is just scratching the surface. Let’s throw out the rules and rewrite them!

  • http://www.facebook.com/susie.briscoe Susie Briscoe

    I’m loving this approach… much more natural and generally what I fall back on anyway because as you say – memory fails for the pitch and it just doesn’t sound cool.
    Well done Nancy!

  • Dr.Lisa

    Thank you Nancy!!  I recently saw a video where another coach poked fun at the “one compelling sentence” concept that we sweat bullets over.  His point was that we can never capture all we are or do in a single sentence.  And all that sweat is simply an indication of just how needy we are to impress or get it right or be validated.  Take a deep breath, remember who you are and why you do what you do. Be more interested in what they have to say than in getting your pitch perfect.  This is conscious business and it gets results!

    • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

      You posted a real gem, Dr. Lisa!
      “And all that sweat is simply an indication of just how needy we are to impress or get it right or be validated. ”

      The personal really is the professional!

  • ShannonP

    I was recently trying to create one because I didn’t know what to answer when people asked me what I do without floundering and feeling tongue-tied.  Everything I worked on felt so un-me.  I agree with the other posters who said that we should ban it!

  • nick nicholls

    [applause, standing ovation]  “the Fascination
    Conversation” and “WAIT” really resonated today…  Thanks Nancy!  well done!    

    • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

      [bow, curtsy] Thanks so much Nick! :-) I learned WAIT a few years ago and it’s always been a fave of mine.

  • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

    Nancy I sooooo agree! I’m really glad you brought that up because this isn’t about unlearning everything about talking about your business, but rather knowing the context and the frame of mind to follow. There are times when we do need to have that little encapsulated bio, but rarely does it serve us in conversation. I strongly suggest people have a compelling statement about themself, who they work with, what results they help you achieve, etc but it’s better served showing up as a bio, an introduction when you’re about to speak, or on the inside jacket of your book.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1464353796 Claire Perkins

    “Remember: Elevators are cramped and smelly. Why take your business on one?” LOL – You really hit the nail on the head, Nancy. I have never mastered an elevator pitch that felt authentic and real. And yet, like you, bought into the idea that “it’s how we’re supposed to do this.” I’m all for a more natural, conversational give-and-take. Thanks for a great post!
    Claire Perkins
    President, Arizona Holistic Chamber of Commerce

  • http://twitter.com/CathyJennings Cathy Jennings

    Amen, Sister!

    This is exactly what gives networking a bad name. (and soooo many other things we could talk about for days)


    Something happens to people when they go to a networking event.  They turn into networking robots and recite mission statements and web copy and sound absolutely boring and ridiculous.  The sad thing is, we’ve ALL done it because, like you said, that’s what we’re told to do.

    The pitch does nobody any favors. It really doesn’t allow us to showcase ourselves and our business in a way that actually makes others want to know more.

    My advice to my clients and workshop participants has always been to be prepared to talk about your business.  That’s where I think most folks fall down — they “wing it” or rely too heavily on a pitch, when they should spend some time becoming comfortable with talking about what they do.  Think of what you do for your clients — the benefits they receive and the transformations they undergo as a result of working with you.  Think of key words, phrases or concepts you’d like to share.  Then, be ready to have a conversation, not a recital.

    Thanks for punching the pitch in the gut and pointing us to a new way of networking!

    Cathy Jennings
    No Pressure Networking

  • Terri Hammons

    I was so glad to read this. I never could work upto the “elevator speech” for the very reasons you mentioned. I appreciate your approach. It is more real, and human.

  • Dale

    I agree that a more natural conversation has the potential for information to be retained longer by both parties and may improve the probability of a longer term business relationship.  However, there is a risk.  By sharing the time available you risk the loss of control of the time available to get your message out. The conversation sharing may turn into a competition for that parcel of time. In the elevator the 30 seconds is more apt to be yours alone.  Bottom line, you have to be prepared to do both.  I don’t think that you have to tell all in 30 seconds.  I believe in either scenario that you have to have 2 prepared sentences about your business that have the big “Wow” factor.  Your objective is only to make the other person feel “they want to know more” and to walk off the elevator together.

    • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

      Dale, this is such an important point. A fascination conversation must be fluid. You need to know how to spark fascination- for many people it’s just feeling that you’re NOT the sales pitch person they dread. For others it’s that WOW sentence (which I totally think is necessary) that makes them want to say, “Really? Tell me more!’

  • http://www.enlightenedmarketing.com/ Andy Riegler Andrews

    I laughed so hard at: “Remember… elevators are dark and smelly.” Unfortunately, they stink less than most “elevator pitches” do ;).

    What I LOVE about this approach is the energy of offering. You offer your attention to the other person, and then if they are interested in you, there’s the chance to offer a no-nonsense, no-selling answer. If they’re interested, great! If not, you can talk about the weather :).

    • http://www.VivaVisibilityBlog.com/ Nancy Marmolejo

      Yes exactly Andy!

  • Maria

    Goddess bless you, Nancy. All through my business training I was fighting this instruction as well as the constant pushing your goods approach. But the coaches said I was resisting selling. I really examined myself about this and I’ve worked and keep working on clarifying the transformation I offer. Still, no matter from which angle I look at it, the elevator pitch as the “right” and required answer to the what do you do question feels unnatural; more a conversation stopper than a conversation starter!   I’m so glad that you validated my feelings. That must have been my sigh of relief you were hearing! (LOL)

  • Scout Wilkins

    Fabulous, Nancy –  just fabulous. I went on strike against trying to turn what I do into a T shirt or bumper sticker slogan a  few years ago…this is really helpful clarity about what to do instead.

    Hmmm…be myself instead. Talk and listen. What beautiful concepts.

    And I LOVE “WAIT” – that one is going in the top of my personal toolbox!  ;)

    Thanks a million.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Nancy, just catching up on reading this. You should connect with Michael Port. He is a business coach too and also explains the history behind it agrees that the typical “elevator pitch” was never meant for what most of us do/try to use it for. I think you’d have plenty of people who would join you on a Ban It! crusade :-)

  • Pamela

    Totally agree.  What a relief. 

  • http://www.flettconsulting.com.au/ John

    Nice!! Fortunately nobody feels the need to do elevator pitches in our elevator, and there are 36 floors from where I am – its deathly quiet! I wonder why that is? Do you think they are all bored from elevator pitches in the past and it has died out like a dinosaur?

  • Giantgary

    I enjoyed reading this. In my sales coaching I come across many sales professionals and entrepreneurs that are looking for that 30 second description of their passion. This is an article I will recommend to all of them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1219752332 Patricia Hoekwater

    Thanks Nancy.  It’s so easy to fall into the redundant elevator pitch approach.  I appreciate the tips.