How to Develop your “Elevator Speech”

hand shake An important part of career success today is based on reputation building. A good on-the-job track record of course helps, but even without a lot of work experience you can build your personal reputation through an engaging self-presentation.

An engaging self- presentation includes these two essential tools:

1. Context for your resume
2. Your 15-second “elevator speech”

An appropriate quotation or anecdote can become the right cap for your resume if it:

• Gives context to the key result areas in your resume, perhaps by using a metaphor.
• Presents a compelling concept because it speaks to an unmet need within the business community.
• Is contemporary because it offers problem-solving possibilities, which have proven to be attainable and practical.

Framing your resume with a quotation or anecdote, which speaks to your personal values, your personal mission and your career goal, can also help you develop your 15-second “elevator story.” Picture yourself on a short elevator ride. The curious person next to you noticing your disability, flatly asks that typically American question: “What do you do?” You need a quick response before that person -- potentially an important contact or even a prospective employer -- gets off the elevator at the next stop.

What do you say? You need to describe the career side of your life in a statement that is:

• Short: taking no more than 15 seconds.
• Simple: involving no more than 15 easy words that naturally roll off your tongue.
• Forceful: creating an instantaneous impression that you are solution-oriented.

Below I show how I developed these two tools for my own career marketing campaign.

Context for your Resume

My one-fold resume (a 17-by-11 sheet of very light gray cover stock) included this statement of my functional experience on the second page:



Positioned organization to take advantage of dairy industry restructuring.
• Developed, monitored growth strategy based on benchmark research
• Promoted organization as first choice among dairy farmers
• Created complete corporate marketing program
• Planned communication strategy for 15 mergers and acquisitions

Aligned 3,000 new dairy farmers, 300 new employees, 80 new truckers and 40 new customers with organization’s vision, values and direction.


Established volunteer program to promote involvement and train leaders.
• Identified need for young farmer program
• Developed statement of purpose, bylaws and structure
• Created recruitment tools for attracting new volunteers
• Sponsored local, regional, national training conferences
• Organized recognition program for volunteers

Doubled young farmer program involvement and increased young farmer representation on board of directors by 600 percent in 15 years.


• Directed strategic planning and visioning process for senior management.
• Researched how “excellent” companies carried out the process
• Demonstrated the need to senior management for strategic planning
• Provided the training needed
• Developed steps to follow in carrying out the planning process

Refocused senior management’s framework for decision making and communicated management’s new vision to key stakeholder groups.


Provided senior management with the tools needed to “walk the talk.”
• Studied contemporary approaches to communication research
• Gained approval for a comprehensive communication assessment
• Selected state-of-art research methods
• Administered the six-month assessment

Developed new communication vision, mission and guidelines (which drove improvements in employee training, management style, performance appraisals, promotion policies and employee benefits).

“Gaining Alignment” became the “hinge” for putting the pieces of my resume together. But, I had to find some short method for explaining what Gaining Alignment meant for me -- and why it was important for the business community. I decided to tap this quotation from futurist John Naisbitt, a business guru at that time.

“When you identify with your company’s purpose,
when you experience ownership in a shared vision,
you find yourself doing your life’s work
instead of just doing time.”

John Naisbitt
Futurist, Author

I then wrote a brief explanation about why this quotation explained who I was and why it was relevant to an important need within the business community. Here is that explanation, which I placed on the front page of my four-page, single-fold resume.


I develop communities of people -- people who work effectively together
in using their individual skills to create a master plan
and then move it from the drawing board to on-site completion.

I help organizations gain that alignment among people by:

• Defining the master plan's direction
• Drawing an image of what is being built
• Diagramming the corporate landscape
• Designing an integrated management system
• Drafting a strategic communications plan

I use these tools as an accredited member of International Association of Business Communicators to forge links between people -- links that meet their emotional, mental, physical and spiritual needs -- so they willingly align themselves behind and dedicate themselves to important projects.

My 15-second “Elevator Speech”

But telling my story on paper or electronically was not enough. A self-engaging presentation also meant I had to be prepared to give my 15-second “elevator speech” at the drop of a hat. I decided to use this pitch:

“I’m a business communicator.
I help people work together within a corporate environment.”

Refining a 15-second “elevator speech” that works -- and delivering it effectively -- in a second’s notice was not easy for me, especially because I speak with some difficulty due to cerebral palsy. So I took the Dale Carnegie course, “Effective Speaking and Human Relations,” which helped me become comfortable with just “being myself” in front of people. I also practiced a lot all by myself in front of a mirror to gain my sense of “presence” -- what my Dale Carnegie instructor liked to call “being crisp.”

My 15-second elevator speech comes in handy in all kinds of situations when I’m asked, “What do you do?”

My statement often leads to a question as a reply: “How do you do that?”

My standard response: “I use strategic communication research to discover what people need and explore how they can meet that mutual need by working together. That’s what corporate communications is all about.”

Remember, you never know who you’ll meet in an elevator. That person just may turn out to be your next employer.

Copyright © 2015. Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Jim Hasse (, Global Career Development Facilitator, has compiled and edited the recommendations of HR experts and the personal observations of both jobseekers and hiring managers into Perfectly Able: How to Attract and Hire Talented People with Disabilities (, a comprehensive disability recruitment guidebook for hiring managers published by AMACOM (September 2010), the publishing arm of the American Management Association. He’s the founder of, a comprehensive career coaching guide for parents of youngsters with cerebral palsy, and owner of Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC, which develops win-win direct mail fundraisers for champions of disability employment.