Masterful Communication: The Improved Elevator Speech - OTIS Style

In the 1800's Elisha Graves Otis invented a safety device that prevented elevators from falling if the hoisting cable broke. Today Otis Elevator Company is the largest elevator company in the world. Of course what Elisha didn't invent was a safety device to prevent conversations from falling silent in elevators and during other potentially awkward moments. Nor did he invent a method for maximizing those short windows of time many of us have to communicate our ideas to a potential buyer, our resume to a future boss or our background to a new friend.

The "elevator speech" is a time to quickly communicate a message; normally 30-seconds or less. Practice the following formula for any messages you know you will be called to give in the next few days during networking opportunities, business meetings, or socializing (who you are, what your organization is all about, selling an idea, etc.)

O - Opening
First impressions are made in the first three seconds. The eight-second number we have all heard for years is actually the time it takes for someone to either confirm or deny their first thoughts. This means your first words need to be intentional, meaningful and purposeful. They should start taking the listener right where you want them to go. Not an appetizer, but the first bites of the main course.

T - Target
The words you use depends on the recipient. Even within the same context (ex. - sharing an idea about a project to your peers), the words you use will change depending on the person's position, their familiarity with you and the idea, and the purpose of that particular interaction. This may seem obvious, but we can get lazy and very self-focused in situations like this. Being target focused means you have your attention on them. Leaving a "you are more important than me" residue on a conversation is just as important as the words you say during it.

I - Intentional
This speaks to how you engage, why you engage and where you put the focus of your OTIS conversation. Most times you will have to do the initiation because people are primarily interested in talking about themselves or not talking at all. So, be bold and talk first.

Secondly, the biggest question we have when someone starts a conversation with us is "what is this person's intentions?" Answer that question quickly. Getting intentions out in the open will either grease the wheels of the conversation or shut it down quickly. But, better to not have a conversation that the other person really doesn't want to have than to waste time for both of you.

Finally, you will benefit greatly by initiating the conversation in the context of something that interests them, not you. This is easier said than done, but masterful conversationalist get things said quickly and spend most of the conversation listening and asking questions.

S - Simple
Your formula for what is in your elevator speech should be simple. Your preparation should be in bullet point format. Your words should be void of confusing terms or "industry jargon." Communicating in a simple manner is about cutting through the noise and gaining their attention quickly. Stories, while sometimes too long for an elevator speech time frame, are great at simple because they are concrete and visual.

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