Monthly Archives: October 2012

How to Craft an Elevator Speech

from the desk of Bill Koch, Director/Workforce Development at SSV

What is meant by an “elevator speech” is preparing a short story of who you are, what you do, and how you can help the person you are talking to in the time it takes an elevator to go from the first floor to the top floor, or approximately 1 to 3 minutes. I will tell you the what, why, where, when, whom, and how of preparing that “elevator speech.”

What exactly is an “elevator speech”?

I believe the name was actually coined from the idea that we sometimes meet the important people in our lives in elevators. The odd situation we encounter in most elevators is that nobody speaks to or looks at anyone else, and yet we have a captive audience for that short period of time. Very few people are ready to interact in case someone does speak. The idea of an “elevator speech” is to have a prepared presentation that grabs attention and says a lot in a few words. What are you going to be saying? By telling your core message, you will be marketing yourself and/or your business, but in a way that rather than putting people off will make them want to know more about you and your business.

Why prepare an “elevator speech”?

I continually mentioned the importance of preparation, in fact one of my favorite sayings is people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan, and it is no different for an “elevator speech.” Actually, it is imperative to work on this two to three minute presentation until it is perfectly crafted. This is the one kind of speech that I do suggest memorizing. Make it such a part of you that if someone woke you up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night, and asked you what you do, you would smoothly and without hesitation tell them your “elevator speech.” This speech will serve as your introduction to others, so it has to be good!

Where and when do I use this “elevator speech”?

Of course, if you meet someone who shows interest in the elevator, you can be literal and use it there. But usually it comes in handy when you attend an event, a conference, a convention, or some other type of meeting with networking opportunities. You will notice that one of the first questions people ask is, “And, what do you do?” “Oh, I’m a lawyer … or an accountant … or a consultant … or an artist…” It doesn’t matter because they will often say, “Oh, that’s nice,” and immediately label you in their mind with all of the stereotypes they perceive those occupations carry with them. However, if you turn your message around and start with an answer like, “I work with small businesses that are grappling with computer problems,” right away — especially if they own a small business — their ears will perk up and they will want to know more. The reason I suggest working on this speech and memorizing it is that our natural reaction to the question, “What do you do?” is to answer with a label. Then, we continue to describe the process we go through instead of sharing the benefits they will get from working with us. Rather than thinking of ourselves as “solution providers” we picture ourselves as doing our occupation.

To whom do I present my “elevator speech”?

The more often you give your short speech, the better it will become. You will have so much fun experiencing the unique reactions to what you are saying, you will easily be able to add enthusiasm and energy to the telling. I suggest taking advantage of a wide variety of gatherings and networking events. And, don’t worry, if your “elevator speech” isn’t smooth, easy, or natural in the beginning. If you stick with it, you will find that it gets better and better, and before long, you will be getting a surprising amount of business — or, at least a number of contacts who want your business card and to stay in touch. You will also be remembered.

How do I craft my elevator speech? What are the ingredients?

To start your “elevator speech” determine your niche market, what problem(s) do they have that you can help solve and what solution is the outcome? What makes you unique? What short story illustrates a successful outcome that you have produced?


My name is Bill Koch, I help veterans get jobs! I work with a non-profit organization in Huntsville that was formed to help veterans it’s called “Still Serving Veterans”. We originally were formed to help severely disabled veterans but have since morphed into an organization that helps any veteran from any era. We have two case managers one for VA benefits and me. I do workforce development which entails helping veterans with resumes, job search strategies, interview skills as well as connecting the veterans to employers. We are a local organization but we help veterans from all over the country. In fact, I have clients as far away as Hawaii. Last year I was able to help 71 veterans get jobs with an average salary of over $50K.

So as you can see an elevator speech is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition.  The name “elevator speech” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.

A variation of the “elevator speech” is the sound bite.

It is a very short introduction of yourself used in situations where you are meeting a lot of people and probably not spending a great deal of time with any one of them.  Events specifically designed for networking were made for the Sound Bite, which lasts about 15-30 seconds and may or may not be the prelude to a lengthier conversation.  The trick is to make your Sound Bite so intriguing that people will want to spend more time talking with you.  The Sound Bite also might be incorporated into an initial phone conversation with a prospective new member of your network.

At its most basic level, the Sound Bite’s structure is:

Hi, my name is____________ I’m in the _______________ field, and I’m looking to__________________.

The last blank would be filled in with your current career aspiration, whether it is to stay within your field and move up or move into a different career.

A college student or new graduate might add the following to the basic structure.

Hi, my name is _________.  I will be graduating/I just graduated from__________________with a degree in _________________.  I’m looking to______________________.

You can stick with the sound bite’s basic structure and see where it takes you.  It may not take you far, however, because it lacks two things:  a “hook” and a request for action.

Beware of a Sound Bite/Elevator Speech that inspires the thought “so what?” in the listener, as the above examples might.

If, however, you add an element of intrigue – a hook – by incorporating your Unique Selling Proposition, the ensuing conversation now has considerable potential.  Let’s look, for example, at how a conversation might go that starts with an intriguing Sound Bite:

Networker#1:   Hi, my name is Carmen Southwick.  I make dreams come true.

Networker #2:  How do you do that?

Networker#1:  I’m a wedding planner.  I plan dream weddings for couples.  I’ve been working for myself, but I’d like to get in with one of the big resorts that hosts weddings.

Let’s look at another example:

Networker#1:  Hi, my name is Betty Joiner.  I’m responsible for this country’s future.

Networker#2:  This I’ve got to hear about.

Networker #1:  I’m a teacher!  I love shaping the minds of the next generation, but I’m also interested in getting into corporate training.

The concern, of course, with the intriguing sound bite is that you’ll sound corny or hokey.  And, in fact, chances are you will.  I’ll admit that when I first researched these sound bites/elevator speeches, I found them very corny.  But they work by hooking your conversation partner into finding out more about you.

You just have to decide whether or not you’re comfortable with incorporating an intriguing line into your Sound Bite.  If not, go for a more basic Sound Bite/Elevator Speech.  One way to test the effectiveness is to try both approaches out on members of your inner circle.

Even the intriguing Sound Bites/Elevator Speeches above lack an important element – a request for action.  Here are some action items that can be appended in various situations:

At a career fair: “I’d like to take your business card, as well as leave my networking card and resume.  Would it be possible for me to get a spot on your company’s interview schedule?

In a networking situation: “What advice do you have for me? Can you suggest any employers I should be contacting?”

Cold-calling an employer: “When can we set up a meeting to discuss how I can help your company?”

Telephone or e-mail situations:  “May I send you my resume?” (For in-person situations, you should always have resumes handy.)

The Elevator Speech is the longer version of your Sound Bite and can be used in networking situations in which you have more time to talk about yourself, such as when you are visiting in the office of a prospective member of your network or having lunch with a contact.  It can be a great job-interview response to “tell me about yourself” or “why should I hire you?”

It’s also an effective response when you’re conducting an informational interview and the interviewee turns the tables and starts asking questions about you.  The Commercial can piggyback on top of the Sound Bite; you start out with the Sound Bite, and your conversation partner asks you to tell more about yourself, so you segue into the Commercial.  This introduction is typically one to three minutes long and contains more about your background, qualifications, and skills than the Sound Bite does.

The bottom line is that you need to be prepared to market yourself in any situation, either with the sound bite or the longer elevator speech.


Virtual Career Fair for Veterans & Spouses

Here is a great opportunity to meet with company recruiters once you have applied to positions!

Milicruit is a 24/7/365 environment, where you can research and apply to over 38 fortune 100 and 500 companies with jobs nationwide and worldwide.

On Tuesday November 13th Milicruit will have a live career day from 1-4 ET, were you can follow up on your application with live recruiters in their booth with “LIVE CHAT” sessions. Remember: jobs fill and become available every hour so you may find new jobs to apply for on career day as well.

Register at

Over 9200 Veterans and spouses have been hired through our partners since March of 2012- Check it out! 

Who can attend?

Veterans from all eras and service branchesreservists, retirees and all military spouses.

***Make sure to do your homework and research the companies booths and the jobs before you reach out to a recruiter***

A good question to ask would be, “The job description asks for a Bachelor’s degree, I have 15 years in the field can I still apply?” Not “Do you have a position in California” – That information is in their careers tab for you to look up.

Milicruit also has a great “Help Desk Booth” with some wonderful resume tools, key words, resume templates and a military to civilian translator.

Below are the companies that will be attending:
American Corporate Partners
American Red Cross
AOC Solutions
Arise Virtual Solutions Inc.
Camping World
CHSi Middle East
Coach USA
Dish Network
Dr Pepper Snapple Group
General Motors
IM Flash
Level 3 Communications, Inc
NCO Financial
Northwestern Mutual
Office of Personnel Mgmt
Penske Truck Leasing
Pepsi Beverages Company
State Street Corporation
The SI Organization Inc.
Union Pacific
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Waste Management
WMATA- Washington Metro
Xerox Business Services

Register today and start visiting booths and applying to some great positions

Launching Leadership Luncheon: Unveiling of a Partnership

Still Serving Veterans is proud to announce the unveiling of a promising partnership with Huntsville City Schools and the Optimist Club of Huntsville that will be held on the 11th. 

This luncheon celebrates the launch of the new partnership between Huntsville City Schools, Still Serving Veterans, and the Optimist Club of Huntsville focused on creating a culture of servant-leadership & volunteerism within our community’s youth through the support of Veteran mentors and a proven service-learning program.

Over the past ten months, Huntsville City Schools has established this three-way partnership with the two locally-based non-profit organizations, SSV and the Optimist Club, with the common purpose of focusing on increasing service and active citizenship within our city school system in order to accomplish three things:

  • Develop driven, community-minded students through a proven and structured service-learning program.
  • Create a culture of servant-leadership where volunteerism and a high self-esteem replace bullying and boredom.
  • Empower our students with a solid passport to college and a guaranteed magnet for scholarships.

After the success of a pilot program launched at Whitesburg Middle School and Morris Elementary School, we are now pleased to offer 16 Huntsville City Schools selected by Superintendent Wardynski the opportunity to adopt this fully-funded program: the formation of a Junior Optimist Club.

Get more info on the Optimist Club of Huntsville here.

Get more info on Huntsville City Schools here.


Scholarships Are Going To Waste!

Even if you do not have a college-aged child at home, please share this with
someone who does, pass this scholarship information on to anyone and
everyone that comes to mind. Though there are a number of companies and
organizations that have donated monies for scholarships use to African
Americans, a great deal of the money is being returned because of a lack of

No one is going to knock on our doors and ask if we can use a scholarship.
Take the initiative to get your children involved. There is no need for
money to be returned to donating companies because we fail to apply for it.
Please pass this information on to family members, nieces, nephews, friends
with children etc. We must get the word out that money is available.

If you are a college student or getting ready to become one , you probably
already know how useful additional money can be. Our youth really could use
these scholarships.

2. Student Inventors Scholarships

3. Student Video Scholarships

4. Coca-Cola Two Year College Scholarships

5. Holocaust Remembrance Scholarships

6. Ayn Rand Essay Scholarships

7. Brand Essay Competition

8. Gates Millennium Scholarships (major)

9. Xerox Scholarships for Students

10. Sports Scholarships and Internships

11. National Assoc. of Black Journalists Scholarships (NABJ)

12. Saul T. Wilson Scholarships (Veterinary)

13. Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund

14. FinAid: The Smart Students Guide to Financial Aid Scholarships

15. Presidential Freedom Scholarships

16. Microsoft Scholarship Program

17. WiredScholar Free Scholarship Search

18. Hope Scholarships &Lifetime Credits

19. William Randolph Hearst Endowed Scholarship for Minority Students

20. Multiple List of Minority Scholarships


3rd Annual Irish Christmas

The Irish Society of North Alabama and Still Serving Veterans are proud to present the 3rd annual Huntsville Irish Christmas!

The event will include: a fully catered Irish cuisine, wine and beer, live Irish music, bagpipes, Irish dance, and an Irish/Scotch whiskey tasting (for an additional cost).

There will be a pre-reception for all sponsors from 6-7. Guests will be given appetizers and a first look at the auction prizes which will include “buy me now” options. Sponsors will also receive: a take away present, their logo and/or video posting on the PowerPoint played throughout the night, wine at the table, called Celtic Guardian, and a program listing/acknowledgement.

We will have 8 person tables with room for more if needed.

The event will be held on Friday, November 30th, from 7-11 PM at the Huntsville Museum of Art. The attire is cocktail.

Become an SSV Workforce Development Client!

Since some of our events require you to be a SSV Workforce Development client, we decided to post an easy to follow guide of what to do and what you need. We only ask you to become a client so that we can verify that you are a Veteran AND so we can get to know you, your personal needs, and help you throughout the process. Doing so also allows us to optimally match you with specific events and employers.

You can’t lose! Just follow these steps:

  1. Go to our website and place your mouse over the tab that reads “For Veterans” and click on “Intake Paperwork” from the drop-down menu.
  2. Print off the 4 forms and fill them out
  3. Call us at (256) 883-7035 and schedule a meeting with Mitch or Tom, our Workforce Development Team or come in during our walk-in hours which are Monday through Friday 8:00am until 11:30am.

**If you are outside of the North Alabama area you can still call and make a phone intake appointment. Just call the same number and reserve your time slot.

**Tip: These meetings and phone briefings vary in length but can last 1½ hours so make sure your schedule is clear!

  1. Come to our office at least 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment and make sure you have all of your documents with you. Below is a checklist of everything you will need:
    • The Intake Paperwork from the website (filled out)
      • Personal Information Form
      • Statement of Mutual Understanding
      • Authorization for Use and Disclosure
      • WFD Employment Questionnaire
    • A copy of your DD-214 (copy Member-4)
    • A copy of your one-page VA Disability Rating Letter if applicable

**Tip: If your rating has come back and you do NOT have a one-page disability letter, please call 1-800-827-1000 or visit to request the one-page “Preference Letter for Employment”

    • Copies of both your Civilian resume (usually 2 pages) and Federal resume (usually 4-6 pages)

Mitch Williams will work with you to help you find a job. Once you become an SSV Workforce Development client you are eligible for the many seminars and classes, career fairs, hiring and training events, and more.

But Workforce Development is not the only service we provide. If you need assistance filing your VA claims we can help you with that as well. Again give us a call at (256) 883-7035 and schedule an appointment with Rick or Laura OR you can come in on Monday through Thursday between 8:00am and 11:30am for a walk-in appointment. They will need your DD-214 and you VA Disability Rating.

If you have any further questions please call or email us. We hope to work with you soon!

VA Leads Nation in Breast Cancer Screening Rates

Improving Access and Coordination of Care for Women Veterans 

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs leads the Nation in breast cancer screening rates and has outperformed non-VA health care systems in breast cancer screenings for more than 15 years, with 87 percent of eligible women receiving mammograms in the VA health care system in fiscal year 2010.

In comparison, in 2010, the private sector screened 71 percent of eligible women, Medicare screened 69 percent and Medicaid screened 51 percent, according to Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set, a tool used by more than 90 percent of U.S. health plans to measure performance on important dimensions of care and service.

“We’re proud of our great record on breast cancer screenings and treatments,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “We’ll continue to work to improve access and coordination of care for women Veterans.”

Since 2000, the number of female Veterans using VA health care has more than doubled, from nearly 160,000 to more than 337,000 in fiscal year 2011.  As the number of women Veterans increases rapidly, VA not only focuses on improving access to breast screenings and coordination of care, but also trains providers in the latest breast exam techniques.

VA provides mammograms for all Veterans, with 45 facilities providing services on-site utilizing digital mammography. Some facilities offer mammograms to walk-in patients and same-day ultrasounds.VA also offers mobile mammography in some areas of the country. This mammogram technology-on-wheels allows women Veterans in rural areas to get screening mammograms and have their mammograms read by a VA breast radiologist, without traveling far from home. All this improves access for more than 337,000 women VA health care users.

VA is different from other health care systems in that we serve a female population that is spread across the continental United States, located in both rural and urban areas,” said Dr. Patricia Hayes, Chief Consultant for VA’s Women’s Health Services. “Because of that we have to be creative and innovative about the way we provide screenings, track a woman’s mammogram results and breast cancer care, and train our providers in the latest diagnostic techniques and breast cancer treatments.”

In many cases, VA is using technology to bridge the distance between providers at facilities in its 21 regions throughout the nation. VA uses simulation technology to train VA providers in the latest breast exam techniques.

VA is also developing a breast cancer clinical case registry to track when a provider orders a mammogram, the results of the test, and the follow-up care provided. The system will improve care coordination and help VA track and study breast care outcomes throughout VA. It is expected to be available in 2013.

These efforts in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment are part of a larger VA initiative to enhance all health care services for women Veterans. Women make up six percent of Veterans who use VA health care, but they are expected to make up a larger segment of all VA health care users in the future. VA is preparing for this increase by expanding access to care, enhancing facilities, training staff, and improving services for women.  Expanded outreach to women Veterans is another goal in the initiative, and VA’s Women’s Health Services regularly creates posters and messages to educate women Veterans about key women’s health issues. In celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, VA reminds patients and providers about the importance of early detection.

For more information about VA programs and services for women Veterans, visit: and

VA operates the largest integrated health care system in the country.  With a health care budget of more than $50 billion, VA expects to provide care to 6.1 million patients supporting 920,000 hospitalizations and nearly 80 million outpatient visits this year.  VA’s health care network includes 152 major medical centers and more than 800 community based outpatient clinics.  At each VA medical center nationwide, a Women Veterans Program Manager is designated to assist women Veterans.