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Ask the Marketing Experts

Embarrassed About Your Elevator Speech?

By The Editors

Question: I need help with my “elevator speech.” When I begin to tell people about my practice, I tend to get flustered and embarrassed. Do you have any advice that would help me feel more comfortable telling people about my business?

Ask the Experts from the LMA

Lynne FranklinLynne Franklin: Remember the goal of giving an elevator pitch. It’s to begin building rapport that can lead to additional conversations — and perhaps new business and referrals.

You want to make a memorable, positive first impression on people in 20 to 30 seconds, so they ask, “Would you explain more?” or “How do you do that?” The other person wants to determine if you are professional, good at what you do and approachable. It’s hard to pull this off if you’re winging it or saying the same thing every time.

Here are four tips to make your elevator pitches better and easier to give.

1. Work on this before you walk through the door. Consider these questions:

  • Who are my ideal clients?
  • What do I do for them?
  • What is the main benefit they get from working with me, or pain they have eased by working with me?

2. Practice. Know what you want people to remember, rather than memorize exact words, which can sound rote.

3. Set a goal. Are you at a networking event and want to identify people worth meeting again? Are you at a first meeting with prospective clients and want them to know you’ve successfully handled similar cases? Are you speaking with friends and family and want them to know what you do (so they can refer prospects to you)?

4. Ask the other person to speak first. This isn’t just polite — it’s strategic. You show your interest in them, which makes them wish to reciprocate. You also get to hear what they do, so you can tailor your pitch to be more meaningful.

Most of all, this is a conversation. Bring a genuine interest in other people. That takes the pressure off of you to “perform.” And goodwill leaves a lasting positive impression.

Lynne Franklin’s elevator pitch is “I help business leaders get clients and employees to do what they want!” She is principal of Lynne Franklin Wordsmith and author of “Getting Others to Do What You Want.” 

Jim JarellJim Jarrell: If I’m being perfectly honest, the fact that you get flustered and embarrassed when you try to deliver your elevator speech would seem a pretty strong indication that you’re not well-prepared or well-rehearsed to deliver it. Unless you practice your speech, you won’t be able to speak with poise and polish. And with poise and polish come certainty and confidence. Finding the right words and using a comprehensive vocabulary will help you make your case with conviction.

Before you even start crafting your elevator speech, you need to identify what your goal is. Whether you use it to get the ball rolling on a job or project or something larger, you should know exactly what you want from your elevator speech before you go out and execute it.

Elevator speeches should be persuasive, so I suggest using Monroe’s Motivated Sequence to help you craft the elements of your speech. To begin with, adults have short attention spans, so you have to grab their attention early and make it count. Then, your speech should help establish a sense of urgency or a need for what you’re trying to sell (in this case, legal services). Once you’ve established the need, satisfy it by explaining how you can solve their problem — this is the “meat” of your speech and should be concise and to the point. (You may also want to prepare counterarguments.)

Next, you will need to describe a detailed picture of success. The goal is to help motivate your audience to agree with you, so make sure your visualization is believable and realistic.

Lastly, you want to leave your audience with a call to action. Give them your card and ask them to call you, or give them your website address to find out more information. The key is to not overwhelm them with too many calls to action. It should be simple and easy, but also help you achieve your goal.

For some of us, delivering the perfect elevator speech comes naturally. The rest of us need to be well-prepared and well-rehearsed, or our message won’t be well-received. Using Monroe’s Motivated Sequence can help improve not only your speech, but can help boost your confidence.

Jim Jarrell currently manages marketing and business development activities for Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg’s litigation department as a member of the firm’s Chicago office. Visit for more information.

Tina EmersonTina Emerson: Assuming that you are giving this elevator speech in a scenario that includes prospective clients, telling people about your practice should be as natural as telling someone where you’re from. If the information is canned and overly prepared, it will sound that way. I like to stick to a few basic tenets of the elevator speech. Do not tell people what you are, tell them what you do. For example, I would much rather hear “I help create business partnerships among medical and dental practices,” instead of “I’m a contract lawyer.”

If you already know the legal needs of the prospective clients, think about how you or your firm can help them based on your experience. “My firm also handles real estate matters for those practices, if they have new rental agreements, or do construction loans, or if they purchase existing properties.”

If this is a networking event and you are not literally in an elevator, you should finish up by engaging your new contact in a conversation. Ask a question such as, “What is an issue that has challenged you most recently?” Hopefully, this will compel your prospect to share some information that will be helpful to you and allow you to discuss your experience in greater detail.

Tina Emerson is marketing director at Rogers Townsend & Thomas, PC, in Columbia, S.C. With 15 years of B2B communications experience, she leads the marketing and business development efforts for the firm’s offices in North Carolina and South Carolina. She serves on the publications committee of the LMA’s Strategies. Follow her on Twitter @tfemerson.

What’s Your Question?

Not every law firm has a professional marketer or business development coach on staff to answer questions. So send us your questions via email or use the comment section below, and we’ll pass them on to the experts at the Legal Marketing Association to answer. Watch for the best ones here in Ask the Experts. 
The Legal Marketing Association provides professional support and education as well as opportunities for intellectual and practical information exchange.
Categories: Ask the Experts, Business Development, Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Marketing
Originally published October 29, 2014
Last updated July 23, 2020
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