Elevator Presentations that Work! Presentation by Eileen N. Sinett

On January 16, we were happy to have Communication and Presentation Coach Eileen N. Sinett, present her talk, “Elevator Presentations that Work!”

Eileen prefers the word “speech” or “presentation” to “pitch” to describe the 30 seconds you are given to communicate who you are and what you do. “Pitch” has gotten a negative, “too salesy” connotation, while “speech” and “presentation” are more neutral.

She engaged us in several activities, the first of which was to introduce ourselves to each other with nothing but a hardy handshake, eye contact and “Hi, my favorite color is ___.” Surely not a verbally informative exchange, but the nonverbal communication was there, which Eileen said always precedes the verbal and enhances its value.

Eileen made a great point that our formal education focused on reading and writing, but not at all on how to listen and speak. beyond, “Sit down, be quiet and listen!” Likewise, we were taught how to put proper spacing in our writing, such as margins and indentations, but we were not taught about proper spacing (pause and silence) in a conversation.

Eileen’s presentation coaching methodology incorporates “4 points of connection:”

  • Inner self: one’s presence and confidence, which she also calls the “invisibles”
  • Message, emphasizing its clarity and flow
  • Audience: how to engage and connect
  • Physical self: delivery of the speech; voice and body language

In one exercise, she asked us to reorder the elements of our typical elevator speech (such as your name, title, tag line and the benefit you provide). It can get stale always saying, “Hi, my name is ___, and I do ____.” Plus, it may not be too memorable when you and the listener part ways. What if you started your speech, after your greeting (Hi, Good morning, and so forth), with the benefit you can provide an employer? Then you have the listener’s interest, and you can then tell them your name and how you can provide that benefit. Eileen calls these permutations “linguistic options.”

Right behind that exercise, she provided a list of alternative opening phrases to illustrate “language flexibility and creativity. We were challenged to start our elevator speech with phrases like: “Did you ever…?,” “Picture this:,” and “Can you believe that..?,” following up with content that illustrated our value to someone, turning elevator speeches into human stories.

Finally, Eileen provided us with two possible ways to answer “And what do you do?” One way is to answer in six words or less, which begs the listener to ask for more and keeps the interaction resembling a conversation more than a lecture. A second way is to answer by describing a generic business need, i.e. (“When you speak at a conference…you want to feel confident and present a clear message”) and then stating that you satisfy that need (“I promote speaker confidence, clarity and connection.”)

Eileen N. Sinett is the president and CEO of Speaking that Connects. She is presenting at the annual Princeton Community Works conference on Monday, January 29.

– David Milkes