There’s No “I” in Elevator Speech

I’ve probably been way too cute for my own good with that title. But did it get your attention?

Two days ago, I talked about the dangers of using “you” in an elevator speech. Today I want to talk about when and how to use “I” vs. “we” in your speech.

I get this question frequently. Someone wants to make their company sound bigger than a one-man operation so they want to use “we” in their speech. Something like this:

“At 1 to 1 Discovery we offer networking coaching services to our small business clients.”

I’ve been accused of being a multiple personality before, but even that doesn’t give me the right to say “we” offer services. 1 to 1 Discovery is a one-woman operation, and it’s going to stay that way for a long time. So if I use “we,” I’m being deceptive, which makes it much harder to get over the “know, like and trust hurdle.

I was teaching a class earlier this week, and someone asked me about “I” vs. “we.” She markets a product. I asked her if she was the person who made the product. She said she was but that currently her mother helped out. And in the future, she plans to outsource the production. I told her it was okay for her to say “we make” in reference to her products. Is it stretching the truth a bit? Yes, but it’s not outright deception. In her case, it’s the business way of dressing for the job she wants, not the one she has.

What about when you ask for a referral? Do you say “please refer someone to me” or “please refer someone to us?”

It depends. Most of the time I recommend using “me” in that instance. It doesn’t matter how big your company is. Most people are referring you. You are the one they have built the relationship with. Honor that relationship by asking people to refer you.

But what if you are in, say, an administrative role in the company? You may be out networking on behalf of the organization, but you aren’t going to be the point person for new clients. Then go ahead and say “please refer us.” You may be the person handing out the card. A referral might call or email you directly, but then you’ll be handing the referral off to the right person in your company. Asking to refer “us” sets that expectation.

I hope these two posts have been helpful to sort through pronouns in your elevator speech.

And you thought the hard part was standing up in front of a group of people for 30 seconds?

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4 Responses to “There’s No “I” in Elevator Speech”

  1. Anna Urman says:

    What about using the company’s name as a separate entity? For example, “1-to-1 Discovery offers networking coaching services to our small business clients.” I have been using that (with reference to my own company) – in the hopes of making it sound bigger, more impressive, and also, less about “me.”

  2. Ari Herzog says:

    Anna, think of it this way: My sole proprietorship is called Ari Herzog & Associates. The name implies multiple people, but it’s run and managed by me, myself, and I; and it is in first person singular that I market its services.

    In response to referring to your one-person entity in the first person plural to imply size and clout, I ask you if you would hire “them” if you later learned “they” were a “she.” Illusion goes so far until it becomes deception.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ari Herzog and Juli Monroe, Juli Monroe. Juli Monroe said: There's no "I" in Elevator Speech. http://bit.ly/cJ7c4p [...]

  4. Juli Monroe says:

    Anna, I think I’m going to have to agree with Ari on this one. Unless you have some strategic partners to whom you outsource some of the work. Then it’s not deceptive to use “we” and “our.” It’s all about perception. If you use plural pronouns, someone thinks there’s more of you. And finding out otherwise can damage trust and your reputation. I don’t think it’s worth the potential long-term hit for the possible short-term gain.