Many years ago, I attended a session that focused on how to make business connections. We were told to develop an “elevator speech” that described who we were and what we did and to be able to deliver that message during a period equivalent to the time it takes an elevator to travel 10 floors with one stop. It takes practise, but it is possible to pack a lot of information in 4 or 5 sentences.
I recently went on a vacation in the Caribbean. Shortly after our arrival, we had the opportunity to attend an information session to learn about the various activities in the area. One of the options was a dolphin prison.
Of course, I spoke up. It is very easy to explain over dinner, when you have a couple of hours, why dolphin captivity is wrong, but my challenge was to quickly and succinctly convey the message in just a few sentences. It was time for my best elevator speech.
As a professional speaker and trainer, I always try to find out as much as possible about the audience, but if little information is available, I rely on a few key principles when selecting content. Using these principles when creating an “elevator speech” can help deliver a powerful, timely message.
Often people need facts. Put at least one fact in your communication. Some people dismiss messages that don’t have some sort of fact or properly referenced statistic.
Sometimes people need something upon which they can reflect because they need to come to their own conclusions. For example, “Dolphins and whales are highly sentient beings and live in complex social structures. How do you think the dolphins feel when they are torn away from their families and forced to live in a tiny pool instead of enjoying a vast ocean?”
Be memorable. Paint a picture that leaves the listener with a clear image that is powerful visually or emotionally engaging. Use one of your sentences to describe something you have seen or experienced and tell people how it made you feel.
There should be a call to action. Ask people to not attend any attraction with captive whales or dolphins, recommend a website, or give them a few keywords they can Google.
If you give this some thought, you might find that one sentence can satisfy more than one of the key components of your elevator speech. Have a few different versions and practice with your friends, but don’t memorize your speech.
The same content does not work for everyone. A person who requires facts will not be impressed if 4 of your 5 sentences are a call to action, nor will the person who is ready to act be interested in detailed statistics, but if you include different kinds of content, you are more likely to have one or more of your points achieve the desired result.
It would be wonderful if every time we tried to discuss our causes, the other person gave us an hour of their time, but those opportunities are infrequent. A powerful “elevator speech” could potentially be used several times per day. In 30 – 60 seconds, we won’t create a new activist, but if we are prepared, we can make progress and we will probably have said something that resonates with the listener.
You can create a powerful elevator speech if you include:
· at least one fact,
· something upon which your listeners can reflect,
· a description of a memorable image,
· something that is actionable, and finally,
· ask a question and try to turn your elevator speech into a dialogue.
As activists, our window of opportunity to impact our listeners can be very limited so we need to be prepared.
For the Oceans,