You probably don't know any company or person who needs the kind of services I provide, do you?

Questioning in this manner will catch a person a bit off guard. It usually gets them thinking about someone who might be a prospect—maybe themselves—and their answer could lead to a sale!

Or, Enough about me. How does your company handle internal and external presentation training?

Asking, Do you—or anyone you know—need what I offer? is not a good way to ask. It requires a yes or no answer, and it will usually be no.

Examples of other good elevator-speech questions are:

You probably never have any late tax filings, do you?

The work flow at your company is about as good as it gets, isn’t it?

For a Nonprofit:

How does your company decide where their people’s volunteer efforts should be steered?

What criteria do you look at before making a donation?

Skipping Floors

Skipping floors, when necessary, is easy to do when the elevator speech is built floor by floor.

For example, when I’m given 10 seconds or less to give an elevator speech, I say, I’m Fred Miller. I’m a speaker, coach and an author. Businesses and individuals hire me to improve their public speaking and presentation skills.

Whether given 10, 15, 30 seconds, or even a minute, I can fill the time with a varying number of ‘floors.’

The ‘Twitter Type’ Elevator Speech

Sometimes, because there is a large group or tight time constraints, the leader says, Please deliver your elevator speech in 15 words or less. As in most editing activities, less is more. Twitter has made us do that.

Here’s my Twitter-type elevator speech: I write, speak, and coach about public speaking and presentation skills. (18 words, 83 characters).

The Elevator Speech - Delivering It

Every presentation, including an elevator speech, has two components.

1. Content: the message you want the audience to get (the ‘floors’ of the elevator speech)

2. Delivery: presenting that message (setting forth the floors of the elevator speech)

In all presentations, delivery trumps content! A person’s elevator speech might have great content on each floor of the elevator, but if not delivered properly, the results will not meet the intended goals.

The delivery component of a presentation has two parts: verbal (your voice and how you use it) and nonverbal (almost everything else except your voice). In all presentations, nonverbal trumps verbal delivery—we believe what we see!

The Elements of Verbal Communication

Enunciation and Pronunciation

If the audience, individual or group can’t decipher what you are saying, they’ll never get it. Talk so people understand the words you are speaking. Don’t mumble or slur your language!


Don’t be a Star Wars R2D2 character and speak in monotone--it can be very boring and hard to understand. Inflecting specific words can dramatically change the meaning of what you say. By contrast, stressing the wrong words will not make the points you intend to convey.


Speak too quickly and they won’t get it. My experience is most people speak way too quickly when delivering their talk, especially in the group scenario. Likewise, speak too slowly and you’ll lose them. Vary the cadence and you’ll do a better job of keeping their attention. Practice and time yourself. Thirty seconds is longer than most think it is. Use a stop watch and time yourself starting with three floors and adding floors to see how much time you really have.


Silence is tough for most of us. We want to fill the silence with sound, and we usually do it with our voice. Pausing is possibly the most important element of the verbal communication. It gives the recipient or audience time to absorb and process what you’ve said. If you’ve used humor and people are laughing, pause. Talk over their laughter and they’ll miss part of your message. Also, plan your pauses to emphasize something important you want them to know.

The Elements of Nonverbal Communication

Have you ever seen a professional mime perform? With no words, you know exactly the message they are communicating. That’s the power of nonverbal communication. Use nonverbal communication to reinforce the words you speak and enhance your presentation. 

Eye Contact

Make eye contact with people you are speaking with—it conveys honesty and sincerity. It shows a confidence in your competence. Survey the audience until you see someone who is getting your message. Look them in the eye, finish a thought, and move on to someone else who gives you great feedback. Not looking people in the eye makes them wary of your honestly. Don’t stare! Most of us get uncomfortable if someone is staring at us. You’re not connecting with most of your audience if you’re staring at one individual.

We’ll continue our discussion next month. ‘Til then, make next your presentation - NO SWEAT!

Fred Miller is the author of NO SWEAT Public Speaking! For more information email him at Fred@NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com or visit NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com.

More Business & Wealth articles.