Friday, October 2, 2009

Forget Your Elevator Speech

Here’s a theory I’d like to test with you: The old idea of an elevator speech – a pitch you can deliver to someone summing up what’s great about an institution in the time it takes to ride an elevator – doesn’t work.

It’s the summing up part that is misguided. Here are two reasons why:
  1. Your listener doesn’t want to be pitched.
  2. Your listener can’t absorb and won’t remember a whole elevator speech.

Most listeners do, however, want to be intrigued, inspired or enlightened. So, when you have the opportunity to talk about your institution try this instead. Rather than attempting to sum up what’s great about your institution, give your listener one compelling fact or statement that makes them think “wow.”

Here are a few intriguing statements that apply to some of the institutions I work with:
  • Even the presidents of other universities say this university does undergraduate education better than any place else.
  • It’s one of the only women’s colleges ranked among the top 25 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • It’s one of the best places in the country to do undergraduate research.
  • You can graduate debt free and earn two Ivy League degrees for the price of one.
  • That one small campus is the birthplace of blogging, hypertext, and the technology behind online shopping – and it’s a liberal arts college!
  • It’s been ranked one of the top colleges in the country and one of the most beautiful – they say brains and beauty come together there.

My theory is these intriguing statements are short enough and powerful enough to be remembered and better yet, repeated. I also think they are more likely to engage your listener in wanting to know more.

As the conversation continues you can deliver more wow statements, eventually enlightening them on all the points you might have included in an elevator speech. Only with this approach they want to listen to you and you’re summing up what’s great about your institution in a way they’re more likely to remember.

It’s a theory I’ve been trying with some success. I’d love to hear how it works for you.


Angelique said...

This is definitely an effective way to go. Face-to-face networking expert Dave Sherman (@aznetguy) gives great - any funny - advice about composing your "elevator speech" in just this way. It's the way I used to quickly describe my entertainment agency to people at networking events and parties.

Liz Rotter said...

Good advice, Andrea -- I agree. Beyond the elevator pitch, these statements could also be the basis for the school's brand -- to be used when creating a positioning statement or determining the key messages that will appear in future marketing materials. Ultimately, it always comes back to: How does your school distinguish and differentiate itself from all others? These compelling statements, as used in an elevator speech, are a great place to start.

Andrea Jarrell said...

Liz -- I agree completely and would actually turn it around and say that the brand positioning is the first step and that will lead you to the right compelling statements. Thanks for these good thoughts.