The elevator speech is that tightly scripted, 30-second introduction that should pack as much information about a person as possible in an engaging, persuasive, and interesting way, right?

Unfortunately, even the "best" elevator speech can be an express trip to oblivion instead of a shining personal marketing moment. Your short spiel can drain the power from that all-important first impression, leaving clients impatiently shaking their heads.

Elevator speeches do work for some people, but many marketers find that those pithy intros lead to a free fall.

Going up?

Actor Tim Robbins popularized the elevator pitch in the 1992 movie The Player. Robbins portrayed a beleaguered movie executive who listened to 125 movie pitches a day.

Those pitches had to be boiled down to the essence of the idea, without a hint of extraneous information—"Think Gone with the Wind meets Star Wars, directed by Woody Allen."

The elevator pitch has seeped into most areas of business life. One pet store owner, for example, begins his spiel with the line, "I'm a warm and fuzzy man." A school teacher's elevator speech kicks off with, "I'm changing the world, one child at a time." Even Geoffrey Moore, bestselling author of Crossing the Chasm, gives advice to entrepreneurs on crafting winning elevator speeches.

Granted, we all need to be armed with a short introduction about ourselves to kick start a conversation. So what's wrong with an elevator speech that's pithy, creative, and has a "hook" to grab the listener's attention?

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Michael W. McLaughlin is the coauthor, with Jay Conrad Levinson, of Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants. Michael is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the editor of Management Consulting News ( and the Guerrilla Consultant. For more information, visit