Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Is Your Elevator Speech Going Up or Down?

It’s not an uncommon expectation to be told you need to have an “elevator speech” for whatever it is you’re trying to pitch / represent. While I certainly agree with this, I think it’s important to view this as a building block for a potentially more comprehensive discussion based on the circumstances. And like most things in business, it takes a little planning to get there.

*** For those not familiar with the phrase, an elevator speech refers to what you could tell someone about something in the normal time you would be an elevator together, so think 30-60 seconds.

What it is: a succinct, confident summary of the overall mission / objective.

What it is not: a hesitant set of details relevant to the mission / objective.

I believe in writing about what you know, so I’ll use the example of my experience at the LIVESTRONG Foundation.  When someone asks me, “Who do you work for?” I can say:

"I work for the LIVESTRONG Foundation. We’re a charity that helps anyone with cancer, right now - for free - and that includes the patient, family members, and friends. We know that cancer research is important, and thankfully lots of people are working in this area.  But if you’re diagnosed today with something like lung cancer, being told there might be an effective treatment for you in about 10 years isn’t much help. So we focus on what can be done right now, in multiple ways."
That’s about 20 seconds of time (yes, I checked) and summarizes our mission and differentiates our organization from others. That could be the beginning and end of the interaction, and the person who asked now has a very basic understanding about the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Hopefully it sets the stage for wanting to learn more, and this leads to the concept of the elevator speech being your foundation for more information.

*** During my military career I worked for a Colonel who told us that when it came time to brief him, be prepared to be at least 3 questions deep. He wanted us to try and anticipate what he might ask; not only making us more efficient in the briefing process (vs. saying, "Sorry, sir, I don’t know that but I’ll get back to you ASAP.") and also getting us to think like an executive.

Using my previous example, some questions to anticipate might be:
  • What are your key programs at LIVESTRONG?
  • What’s your annual budget, and how much of that goes to services?
  • Why don’t you fund clinical cancer research?
  • Whatever really happened with Lance Armstrong?
  • What’s next for the Foundation?

And having thought out the answers to these questions, you can also use them for a more proactive approach / structure if the person or group wants to know more, such as in an interview or giving a speech:

Overarching theme:
The LIVESTRONG Foundation helps people with cancer, right now.
  • Point 1 – Survivorship and Navigation services
  • Point 2 – Where the money goes
  • Point 3 – Our future partnership with the UT Medical School

This idea of having an effective elevator speech is necessary in practically all facets of business, from sales / fundraising, to conferences / presentations, and communications / marketing. But it is not enough on its own; it’s your foot-in-the-door building block to having a more engaged and meaningful conversation.  Good luck, now get out there and practice! Ciao for now – Cb…

1 comment:

  1. Fantastically succinct with practical tips. Nice job CB!