There are some folks who are critical of elevator speeches (I am not a fan of that term myself – how about BioIntro instead? Nah). But, it is more than the term itself that riles them. One of those critics has good points and not so good in my view. He is author and consultant Doug Stern, who has an article that appears on in which he is critical of elevator speeches and sets up a straw man by saying:

“Lawyers, for example, might offer, an elevator speech along the lines of ‘I add value to leading privately held companies by addressing the sophisticated legal issues relating to complex ownership succession.’” (emphasis mine)

It isn’t difficult for anyone to be critical of that one, considering how self-serving, arrogant, and presumptuous it is. So, no wonder Stern easily points out what can be wrong with elevator speeches after using an example like that.

But, he didn’t need to use such a weak case to make his points, a few of which I would agree with and consider worth sharing. For example, your response to the question “what do you do?” should:

  • Create interest, without sounding like a sales pitch,
  • Not assume they want you to recount your work history,
  • Avoid turning your response into a lecture, and
  • Turn the opportunity into a conversation.

One point he makes that I would disagree with involves his statement “chances are they really don’t want to know what you do.” HUH? Does he mean that "chances are" people are obviously phony, and don’t mean what they say? A bit too general of a statement, I would think. My point: if you don’t want to know what I do, then don’t ask! Rather, make some inane comment about the weather or how well the air conditioning system is working.