As a former local chamber of commerce executive I was often asked, “what is it exactly that you do?” My response was that our chamber is in the “community building” business. In short, “community building” was my elevator speech/pitch.
The concept of an elevator speech/pitch is the idea that your explanation of who you are and what you do should be possible in the time it takes for an elevator ride, usually thirty seconds to two minutes. (Note: I’m from Alabama, so you better get to the point because most of our buildings aren’t that tall.)
Your elevator speech/pitch is your chance to make that crucial first impression. It sets the stage for a business card exchange and the chance for a more in-depth follow-up meeting. As chamber of commerce executives, we are all in “sales.” Whether we are selling investment opportunities in our chamber, our program of work to an elected official, or a new concept or idea that will help our members, developing an elevator speech/pitch can be an important first step to make a connection.
My elevator speech/pitch changes to fit each situation. I now lead a statewide chamber association of over 120 local chambers of commerce. As a result, my elevator speech/pitch is specific and seeks to make a connection, rather than being generic or canned. It’s the bait that lands the catch and allows you to reel it in. You should present your elevator speech/pitch in a confident manner. You know what you do. You know your strengths. You know what you can offer and the benefits you provide. Make sure you convey your message in a tangible and convincing way that will generate future discussion.
My elevator speech/pitch for my local chamber read something like: Our chamber provides a one-stop shop in our community to effect positive change! We are the office of “community building.” By partnering together, our chamber is a group of business and professional people, just like you, that are building a healthy economy and improving our community!
My elevator speech/pitch for my statewide chamber association reads something like: Our chamber association is dedicated to the goal that local chambers of commerce are the premier local business advocate in the State of Alabama. Through the partnership between the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama and the Business Council of Alabama, we represent the interests and concerns of over 1 million working Alabamians every day.
Some estimates say that there are over 7,000 chambers of commerce in the United States. Everyone has heard of a “chamber of commerce.” However, we need to ask if everyone understands a “chamber of commerce.” As chamber executives, we have heard the old saying: “If you’ve seen one chamber, you’ve seen one chamber.” This is particularly true given that chambers of commerce in different locations operate in distinctly different ways and focus on varying topics. As a result, it’s imperative that our elevator speech/pitch conveys what we do, why we do it, and who we really are!