The Anti-Elevator Speech

When someone asks you what you do, do you freeze up or start stammering? You need a concise, memorable response prepared for all the times when you’re asked about your work. This is sometimes called your “elevator speech.” Why? Imagine stepping into an elevator with your biggest prospect. She turns to you and asks, “So, what exactly do you do?” You have 30 seconds—the time it takes for the elevator to get to her destination on the 25th floor—to describe yourself in such a way that she immediately understands why you are the solution to her problems.

Unfortunately, most people see their elevator speech as an opportunity to tell their life story and rattle off a laundry list of services they provide to their clients. All this does is serve to notify the victim, er, the listener that this person is more interested in talking about himself than about what he can do for his clients. Instead, create an anti-elevator speech that focuses on results instead of activity. Three alternatives I recommend include Elevator Q&A, Elevator Ping Pong, and Elevator Story-Telling.

Elevator Q&A
Paul and Sarah Edwards, the authors of a number of books about home-based businesses, describe a useful formula for developing your 15- to 30-second introduction. The template they use is this:“You know how [describe typical clients’ problem]? Well, I [solve problem] by [doing this].” For example, “You know how frustrating it is when you have to make a strategic decision without all the information you need? Well, my company helps you make better decisions by providing you with insight on your competitors.” Or, “You know how hard it is to care for elderly parents when you don’t live nearby? Well, I coordinate local care for my clients’ loved ones throughout the Puget Sound area, and consider each one to be part of my family.”

Elevator Ping Pong
Instead of developing a speech, remember that you just want to get a conversation going. So, when someone asks you what you do, give an answer that invites further interaction. A business researcher might say “I keep my clients from making big mistakes” or “I help my clients look brilliant”.  (I learned this approach from a man who sold automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and would tell people that he was in the human jumper-cable business. If that doesn’t invite at least a “what?” from the listener, nothing will…) Think of a way to describe yourself that is intriguing, thought-provoking, or even startling.

Elevator Story-Telling
We humans are innate storytellers. An effective way of describing yourself so that you are memorable is to tell your listener a story in just three sentences. The first sentence describes the client’s situation; the second sentence tells what your client got; the last sentence says what your clients were able to do next. An example from my own experience is, “A product director was considering a move into the organic personal care market. I provided an overview of the market, with the key issues summarized. My client decided to focus on organic baby care products, an area in which they had a clear advantage.”

Keep the following in mind as you work on your personalized version of the answer to, “So, what do you do?”
•    Avoid industry jargon or buzzwords such as “solutions.” Word of mouth travels a lot farther if people outside your field understand and can describe to others what you do.
•    Keep it short. They’re asking you for a reason to use your services, not your life story or a laundry list of services.
•    Make yourself recession-proof. What are your clients’ critical needs—things they view as essential, not just nice to have? (Don’t know? Conduct some reality-check interviews and find out!)
•    Focus on benefits that provide clear added value. Talk about services that your clients can’t or won’t do for themselves and that solve a problem or help them achieve their goals.
•    Make sure you can deliver your introduction with enthusiasm. If you’re excited about your business, others will be as well.

Practice your 15-second introduction with everyone you encounter and watch their responses. If you get a blank stare, well, you just learned one way not to describe yourself. Keep at it until you’ve found a few intros that feel genuine, you can say with passion, and that the other person understands. Everyone can be part of your word-of-mouth network if you learn how to effectively convey why people love your product or services so much.

More super-searcher tips

searchingIt’s the beginning of conference season for us public speakers… along with the daffodils appear boarding passes and PowerPoint slides. One of my favorite conferences is Computers in Libraries, and I will be leading the Searcher Academy pre-conference workshop as well as giving a regular presentation on super searcher tips.

I have more tips than I could fit into a blog post; here are a few of my favorites that I will be sharing at Computers in Libraries:

* All of us consider ourselves to be above-average Google searchers. However, there are times when you can be too clever for Google and wind up with unexpected results. Say your search logic is  (A and B) OR (C and D)(Australia AND snakes) OR (Colorado AND mountain lions), for example, if you were comparing the dangerous animals of two regions. However, this search gets translated into logical gibberish by Google — Australia AND (snakes OR Colorado) AND mountain lions. You will get better results by separating your query into two different searches.

* How you word your search matters – a lot! I was looking for information on Uber’s market strategy and found dramatically different results with the following three seemingly similar queries: Uber market strategyWhat is Uber’s market strategy and Uber “market strategy”. Always try several versions of your query, as there is surprisingly little overlap among the results of similar searches.

*Use if you are researching an obscure topic, an individual, or looking for any kind of long-tail resource. This search engine lets you eliminate from your search result any of the million most popular web sites. You can also filter out any sites that have advertising or that appear to be e-commerce sites, which can be an effective way to find the web site for a small non-profit or a group committed to a cause.

You can see some of my prior super-searcher tips here and here.

Libraries and digital content purchasing

data-streamI recently conducted a flash survey to learn the key issues specialized libraries are facing regarding the purchase of digital content such as value-added online services, ebooks and online journals. What I learned surprised me… a lot!

When I asked the survey participants an open-ended question about their biggest concerns regarding their digital content budget, I expected a fairly wide range of answers. Instead, over a quarter of them said that their largest frustration is that their vendors raise rates every year for the same content, whereas the library budget stays flat, forcing them to cut back somewhere else just to maintain the same level of content as the year before. Significantly fewer respondents mentioned lack of budget support from management and concerns about selecting the right content and getting a good ROI from their digital content purchasing.

I also asked about the most important factors when selecting or changing digital content vendors. It wasn’t even close — cost and content were mentioned by most of the respondents, with considerations such as functionality, ease of use, vendor relationship or contractual terms being mentioned far less frequently. Interestingly, although many online vendors tout their exclusive content, not a single respondent mentioned exclusive content as a consideration. (Email me if you’d like a copy of the survey results.)

Bottom line: It’s not the bells and whistles, advanced features, a great account rep or exclusive access to Widgets Daily. Librarians buy digital content based on whether they get the content set they need at a price that fits within their budget. Offer them something with a better ROI and they’ll switch.