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NEO Shop Talk November 13th, 2019
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Sep

11

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Give Your Elevator Pitch a Lift

Posted by on September 11th, 2015 Posted in: Storytelling


Illuminated elevator up button

Forget about elevator speeches.  Think elevator conversations.

Elevator pitches are one of a number of strategies you can use to stealthily promote your organization’s successful programs and services. We cover elevator pitches in an OERC workshop about how to use evaluation to better advocate for your organization. I always thought of elevator pitches as little promotional speeches of elevator-ride length (i.e. 20-seconds) that you can slip into small talk when you run in to “someone influential.”  You add nuggets of evaluation findings to these mini-speeches to demonstrate program value.

I now see that I was missing a key element in the elevator pitch exchange: the other person.

I can thank this insight to Tim David and his article Your Elevator Pitch Needs an Elevator Pitch, which appeared in the Harvard Business Review (10 Dec 2014).  David emphasizes the importance of engaging your fellow elevator traveler, rather than talking “at” him or her.

As such, you have to prepare a conversation, not a speech.

What I appreciate in particular is how he seamlessly slips in evidence to support his low-key pitch. See, for instance, how he surreptitiously inserts a statistic that he must have obtained from a follow-up evaluation with one of his client organizations.  Specifically, the organization reported that productivity and morale increased 38% after his training. David seamlessly folds that little fact into the conversation and it underscores the value his service provided to the organization.

That’s how to tie evaluation to advocacy, folks!

Here are the other tips I took away from the article:

  • Answer polite but perfunctory questions (such as “what does your office do?”) with a surprising answer. This is harder than it looks, so I’m going to have to practice this tip. (“Hi Mom, did you know….?”)
  • Use questions to draw your elevator companion into the conversation. David suggests that you talk no more than 20% of the time. Yield the remainder of the time to the other traveler, but use questions to keep the conversation rolling.
  • Don’t worry too much about that 20-second time frame traditionally recommended for elevator pitches. If you successfully engage your fellow rider, he or she will hold the elevator door open to continue the chat.

We have posted a number of articles about weaving evaluation results into stories (see June 29, July 2, and August 21 of this year. The elevator pitch format is a good addition to your story-telling tool kit. But it is the extra-credit challenge. It will take some practice to be able to present an elevator pitch casually and conversationally. If you’re up for that challenge, then check out Tim David’s article for some excellent guidelines.

 

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This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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