The Elevator Speech

It is a brief, clear, and concise statement of who you are and what your life is about. One person calls it a "commercial" for your brand or your organization. If you are a salesman, it describes your product and what it can do for the other person.

Effective elevator speeches contain eighty to ninety words and last thirty seconds. About the length of a tweet.

They can be given to anybody, at any time, and anywhere-- even in an actual elevator!

Do you have one ready? I believe that as Christians we should always have something to say that identifies us as Christ-followers. We ought to be able to make a fuller presentation of the gospel, too, of course (1 Peter 3:15)--but the elevator speech is for those encounters where there are only seconds to make an impression and maybe whet the appetite.

So take time to prepare yours.

            Write it out.

            Edit, cut, remove all extraneous words.

            Have different versions for various situations.

            Commit it to memory.

This isn't as easy as it sounds, though. Someone once asked Woodrow Wilson how long it took him to prepare one of his speeches.

"That depends on the length of the speech," he replied. "If it is a ten minute speech, it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; If it is a half-hour speech, it takes me a week; If I can talk as long as I want to, it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now."

I think that it is important to smile as you speak. Be animated, but not loud or intimidating. Honor the other person's space.

You can start with a question. One that I use, when the person has a book open or under her arm, is this: "Hey, what are you reading?” No one has ever refused to answer me--in fact, they are usually eager to share the title. And if that title has any spiritual connotations to it at all--even if it's a stretch, I try to take it back to Jesus.

It is always good to tell a story, too. But again, you can't ramble-- every word has got to carry freight. Brief is almost always better.

At a recent funeral that I conducted, there were four individuals who were slated to give eulogies. There was going to be a lot of music in the service, as well as prayers, scripture, and my message, too, so they each needed to be brief and focused.

Lindsay, a young realtor, walked up to me before the service with several pages of a manuscript in her hand and asked how long she had.

"One minute," she was told.

Without complaining, she found a side room and began whittling down her remarks. She eliminated lots of what she had previously prepared and ended up with a brief but beautiful tribute to her friend. Lindsay told a story we could all remember.

Here's a version of mine, depending--

 "Oh, you're reading 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven' by Albom. An interesting book. My name is Don. I'm a minister and I love to talk to people about heaven. Who are you looking forward to seeing one day? I was speaking at a funeral the other day and explained to the mourners how Jesus has made it possible for all of us to go there. That coffin at the front of the room really helps focus the mind."

The condominium building where we stay in Daytona has nineteen floors, so my elevator speech could be a little longer, I suppose. Then, if I have managed to connect with the other passenger, we could go and sit by the pool, or take a walk on the beach to continue the conversation.
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