Dear Matt: I keep hearing about creating an elevator speech - what is this? What are the characteristics of a good elevator speech?

Matt: The concept of an elevator speech comes from this scenario: Imagine you are alone in an elevator with a potential (fill in the blank – customer, employer, business leader) you've been trying to meet with for months. You have until the door opens and that person steps off to interest him or her in talking to you more about what you have to offer. What would you say?

"When I think about times when I've introduced myself briefly and felt as if I had done a good job, I feel as if I have come across in a way that gives an authentic sense of who I am and what I do," says Brian McDermott of Maple Grove-based GrowthWorks Inc. ( a facilitation, training and consulting firm. "I've conveyed that I'm genuine and really care about what I do. I'm not just spouting hype and chasing a dollar."

Today the elevator speech has evolved to be used everywhere and anywhere you run into someone who asks, "what do you do?" This could be at a formal networking event, with a potential client and of course, a potential employer, says Pamela Muldoon, a Twin Cities business and leadership development consultant with Next Stage Business ( Muldoon says that in those 30-60 seconds you need to say something that connects with the person you are talking to that begs the question, "Really ... how do you do that? Why is this important?"

Crafting an elevator speech can be as easy as simply telling others how you solve their problems. Here are a couple of examples, according to Muldoon:

Position: Accountant

Message: "My name is Jane Smith and I am an accountant for ABC Company. I help my company keep its expenses down by staying on top of current tax laws."

Position: Customer service representative

Message: "My name is Joe Smith and I work in the customer service department for XYZ Company. I help understand our customers' needs after they have purchased our products and ensure they stay our customers."

"The elevator speech is truly a skill of communicating in a very short amount of time what you do and who you help," says Muldoon.

Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. This column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to