The Elevator Speech

up“When you’re not doing anything else, build the business,” was the best advice I ever got from a supervisor. This became my mantra. There was no longer any such thing as “nothing to do.” While others were taking a break, I looked for ways to make myself indispensable.

I found that I could “build the business” in some odd places, like elevators.

Most people, placed in an elevator full of strangers, are quietly distant, content to gaze with upturned eyes as they watch floor numbers scroll by. It’s as though they expect something other than the natural sequence to be displayed (Someday, I’d love to program a display to show random floors: 1, 5, 12, 3, and so on, just to watch the reactions. But that’s a subject for a different blog).

Why not take what could an uncomfortable interlude spent standing too close to strangers in a confined space and use it to build the business by enhancing guest experience? 

I’m not suggesting the banal, “Nice weather, eh?” but taking the opportunity to remind guests of the spa, or to let them know that the restaurant has a fabulous new chef.  I point out the property’s features in an effort to stimulate interest, curiosity and even excitement. Salesmen call it an ‘elevator pitch’ – a few choice words meant to stimulate interest in learning more, even after the doors have opened.

Elevator people are generally open to conversation; they merely don’t feel comfortable initiating it.

The 60-seconds or so spent locked in a steel box also gives guests a chance to mention problems or ask questions that they might not otherwise bring to anyone’s attention – and that gives you an opportunity to make things right or to provide answers. Comments made in an elevator may well be more accurate than any written guest survey could elicit.

I’m no standout at cocktail party chit-chat, but I do enjoy talking to people in elevators. There’s just nothing like having a captive audience!


Scott H. Lewis is managing director for the CIS region of Signature Europe. A former journalist and public relations counselor, he has provided crisis, public speaking and presentation training to senior executives across Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. He is the author of The Kindness Cure: 52 Weeks to a More Fulfilling Life. An American, he has lived in Kyiv, Ukraine for more than a decade.

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