To Be Differentiated, Create a Unique Elevator Speech

Could you effectively sell yourself to a prospective employer if you were alone with him or her for 30 seconds in an elevator?

Can you talk about yourself without using the same, worn clichés used by every other job seeker? Can you say something about your brand that others cannot say about theirs?

An effective elevator pitch should be:

  1. Relevant. Talk about the impact you can have on their success.
  2. Differentiating. Don’t say things about yourself that everyone else can say about themselves.
  3. Conversational. Your message should not sound like some formal, memorized script. With practice, your elevator speech can come from the heart and roll off your tongue in a very conversational manner.

Seth Godin, one of my favorite authors and bloggers, says this about elevator speeches:

No one ever bought anything in an elevator

The purpose of an elevator pitch isn’t to close the sale.

The goal isn’t even to give a short, accurate, Wikipedia-standard description of you or your project.

And the idea of using vacuous, vague words to craft a bland mission statement is dumb.

No, the purpose of an elevator pitch is to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you’re with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over.

Spend the time necessary to prepare your own elevator speech. It will take time and practice, but you want to be ready when the elevator door closes and you have 30 seconds to say something about your unique, differentiated brand.


These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH

5 Responses to To Be Differentiated, Create a Unique Elevator Speech

  1. Duane — I believe your elevator speech should be only five seconds long. Mark Twain said, “if I had more time, I’d have written a shorter letter.” Brevity is key. And Godin is spot-on, it should help generate a follow-up question and engagement from the recipient, not tell your whole story.

    However, as you know, for 20+ years we have shared our foundation positioning strategy (this works for a person, business or organization) entitled, “Think Excellence, Not Difference.” Tell your story from the recipients’ perspective…why are you their best choice; not what makes you different from their other options.

    This is a sustainable, permanent positioning. For example, at Morningstar Communications we say, “We help you clarify your message, connect with the people who matter most, and change behavior.” More often than not, we get follow-up questions and then we’re in a conversation.

    Thanks, Duane, for all you do to help people grow and succeed!

    • Duane Hallock says:

      Points well taken, Eric. Thank you.

      Back in 2008 I attended your workshop “Think Excellence Not Difference.” I distinctly remember your excellent message and am grateful for this reminder several years later. Your core message has remained the same, but you and Morningstar Communications remain relevant by continually finding new ways to clarify your message, connect with the right people and change behavior.

  2. Duane,

    Great post (as usual!) I’m grateful for the recent daily posts. Great reminders of the need to continue focusing on branding. Admittedly, I’ve let my focus slip, but your blog posts are giving me motivation!


    • Duane Hallock says:

      Meggan, thanks for your comments. I was just bemoaning the fact that your busy life has kept you from blogging, and then you publish a post. As always, it’s a worthwhile read! (Check out Meggan’s blog at


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