Spitfire Strategies

Mastering Your Spiel


“So, what do you do?”

If you’re headed to a big conference or event, you’ll be asked that question more times than you can count. A well-crafted elevator speech, or quick spiel about who you are, what you do and why it’s important will help you cut through all the clutter at networking events and relay the message that really matters – why people need to support your organization. At these events, you will likely come across people who are important to your work in some way – whether they are potential allies, volunteers, supporters or funders. Therefore, it’s critical that you have a concise, compelling introduction so you can be ready to make a great first impression.

An ideal elevator speech  is 30 to 60 seconds, contains no jargon, demonstrates the passion you feel for your work and focuses on why you do what you do, not just what you do.

So, what information do you need to share to get a coffee meeting with the person you just met? There are four critical components to any elevator speech:

  1. A strong opening. You need to catch your audience’s attention from the moment you start talking. Maybe it’s your organization’s tagline, a quick story about your work or a compelling statistic that demonstrates why your work matters. Whatever it is, you need to give your listener a reason to keep listening.
  1. A description of the need or problem you face. What is it that you’re trying to solve? Give your listener the context for your work so he or she can understand why you do what you do.
  1. Your unique response. Next, explain the unique approach your organization is taking to tackle the problem. Emphasize what makes your organization different from others that are working on the same issue.
  1. Engagement. Remember that this should be a conversation, and not a monologue. A good elevator speech should elicit a response, such as a question or a request for more information. You should always have an ask, whether it’s for a business card, a like on Facebook or an opportunity for follow up on ways to work together. Don’t overshoot. Just like you wouldn’t ask someone you just met for a ride to the airport, the elevator (or conference) may not be the time to ask for donations.

Once you perfect your elevator speech, practice, practice, practice! Grab a colleague, or set aside time at your next staff meeting for everyone to go over their elevator speeches. The more you practice, the better prepared you’ll be to wow the VIP you meet at your next event.

Finally, always remember that your elevator speech should be tailored to your audience. Different people are going to be interested in different parts of your work. What you’ll say to a funder is not necessarily the same thing you’ll say to a volunteer or another advocate.

With these tried and true tips, you will be able to master your elevator speech in no time, and make a lasting impression at your next conference or event.



“This is a truly transformative program and there is no question that it is preparing leaders to be courageous communicators.”

- Colleen Bailey, Executive Director, The National Steinbeck Center

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