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How do I develop a simple and effective elevator speech for my exhibit staff?

As the name implies, an elevator speech is a roughly 20-second company or product explanation – including its name, what it offers, and how those offerings might benefit people – that could be delivered during the course of a short elevator ride. But even if staffers never step foot in an elevator, such a speech is invaluable to them.

Unless your company is (or owns) a well-known brand, such as Intel Corp. or Nike Inc., many booth visitors will ask wide-ranging questions along the lines of, "So what do you do?" Or you might get questions similar to, "What do you have that's new this year?" A carefully crafted elevator speech is the perfect answer.

This same speech can be used to launch an in-booth demo or group presentation, as it quickly provides a 30,000-foot overview of your firm or a new product before you dive into specific content. And, of course, an elevator speech is vital for networking functions and show-related events. When the guy at the buffet table glances at your badge and says, "Oh, I've heard of XYZ Co. So what do you do again?" you'll have an immediate answer – and possibly a new client.

Clearly, then, an elevator speech should be a critical tool in every booth staffer's repertoire. But how do you develop one for your staff? An effective speech contains two to four parts. First, state the name of your company and the product or service you provide (e.g., "The Pooch Palace provides in-home dog boarding."). Then establish some credibility. You might explain how long you've been in business, list some key clients, or state your place in the market.

Sometimes these two data bits are all you need to satisfy the person that posed the question. However, if you sense that he or she is keenly interested, add a third or perhaps fourth component. Initially, provide a few reasons why people want to do business with you. You might say something like, "Clients choose the Pooch Palace because dogs become a part of our family for the duration of their stay, and they're not crated for more than two hours per day."

And finally, if the person seems thoroughly engrossed in what you have to say, consider a call to action or open-ended question such as, "Why are you looking for dog-boarding services?" or "What would you like to hear more about?"

Once you assemble all of these parts, you should have a cohesive de scription of your firm and its services or products that takes no longer than 30 seconds to recite. Here's another business-related example to get your wheels turning. "Advanced Tree Care provides full-service tree trimming and removal in the North Dallas area. During the past 23 years, we've safely removed more than 4,000 dying or nuisance trees without a single insurance claim. Clients ranging in size from the J.C. Penney Co. to home owners in low-income housing have turned to us because of our customer service skills and outstanding safety record. What do you look for in a tree trimming service?"

Or, if you're using an elevator speech to talk about your company's newest product and answer attendees' "What's new this year?" query, here's a different kind of example. "Move It Dollies has just introduced the Stair Climber, which helps people move large packages up and down steps with ease. While it just launched in January, the Movers and Packers Association has already named it a top product of 2016. Clients, which range from one-time residential movers to personal-delivery services such as You Haul It Inc., love its sturdy design. What sort of package-transport needs do you or your company have?"

So as you can see, creating an effective elevator speech is merely a matter of organizing your thoughts into a cohesive whole that can be remembered and delivered with ease when the opportunity presents itself.