Forget the Elevator Speech, It’s Your Introduction That Matters

A few months ago, my colleague Patti Johnson wrote that we don’t need an elevator speech (i.e. a 1 minute pitch intended to convince a stranger to do business with you). I agree that whipping out 2 or 3 well-rehearsed sentences ALL ABOUT ME is very one-sided. If we want others to be interested in us, we have to show interest in them.

But I do see the value in having a solid, polished introduction.

Think about how many times we are asked in either a professional or social setting, “What do you do?” or “Please introduce yourself to the group.”

Similar to writing a compelling bio, taking the time to craft an interesting, concise, reusable response to “What do you do?” or “Please introduce yourself to the group” is an excellent investment. If you can describe yourself in a way that is appealing to others, it will open the door to opportunities and further conversations and questions.

Strip Your Introduction Into to 3 Simple Messages

You only have a few seconds to make a positive impression and leave the other person interested in finding out more about you. Start by breaking your introduction into 3 parts.

  1. I am a …. Describe who you are.
  2. I work with …. Describe what organizations or people you typically do business with.
  3. I (action verb)… Describe what you do in terms of benefit or value.

For example:

I am an instructional designer and trainer. I work with global companies and non-profits to design and facilitate learning and leadership development programs that change and improve the way people lead, manage and communicate. 

I am clinical psychologist. I work with adults and families who are struggling with addiction and substance abuse. Through individual psychotherapy and group counseling, I provide a supportive therapeutic approach that helps clients retake control of their lives.

Don’t Let Delivery Be Your Downfall

After your 3 messages are crafted into a few sentences, practice it, revise it and check it against these additional reminders:

  • Get rid of the jargon. Anyone, in any field, should be able to understand what you do, and be able to successfully introduce you to someone else.
  • Keep it concise. A few sentences are all you need for an initial introduction. You can always go into more detail once a conversation takes off.
  • Smile. Look and sound passionate about what you do.
  • Create a positive impression with your eyes. Don’t glance up or down at the floor. Appear poised and confident by looking the other person or people in the eye when you introduce yourself.
  • Tailor your introduction based on your audience. Your 3 simple messages are still the same (who you are, who you work with, what you do), but what you emphasize, or include in your introduction can change based on the audience.
  • Shift from a contact-mindset to a relationship-mindset. The goal of an elevator speech or introduction is not to sell. The goal is to create a positive impression, and build off the initial introduction so that more meaningful conversations occur. 

Once I changed the question from asking what’s my elevator speech to what’s the best way to introduce myself, my answer comes out a lot smoother and sincere.

How do you introduce yourself?

Marta Steele is a Partner at PeopleResults. Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele or through email at