Small Message, Big Impact: The elevator Speech Effect
By Terri L. Sjodin
Here’s a little light summer reading for all you library leaders! It is truly a small message (219 pages) with a big impact. There is so much good advice packed into this little tome; it is well worth your time to read it. It is not library-specific, but the ideas definitely translate well to our industry. Some key ideas include:
1. Craft a variety of elevator speeches or talking points and deliver the one that is most appropriate and relevant to the situation. For example, if you are at a big library conference like ALA, you can introduce yourself to a session speaker using an elevator speech around the topic of the session. When I speak at conferences, I love it when attendees come up afterward to introduce themselves. The problem is that there are a multitude of people who sort of rush the stage, and you only really have time for an elevator speech with each one. You are genuinely interested in what they have to say, but you can’t have a long conversation with each person.
2. The author gives advice for different presentation styles, but warns that ultimately you have to be you. You can try something really creative and kitschy, and that does work in the right situation, but you still have to be comfortable delivering it and it has to work for the audience. This is especially true in elevator speech situations, where you may be trying to get someone’s attention for three short minutes by any means possible. If you’re too crazy and they don’t know you, they may run in the other direction! On the other hand, if your gimmick is clever enough – and relevant to that person’s interests – you just might get their attention in a positive way.
3. This leads to the author’s idea of being “scrappy.” Find out about the person you want to add to your network and use that information to make connections. Do they like coffee? Bring them coffee and ask for three minutes of their time (the length of time it takes you to deliver your elevator speech). Do they know a mutual person that you know? Show up where those two people will be and have person A formally introduce you to person B. Will they both be at a certain conference? You should go too!
4. The author also talks about how and when to be persuasive rather than informative (or vice versa) and how to pass the “So what?” test. You have to answer this question: What does this mean to me? Superlatives like “best,” “largest,” “oldest,” “newest,” and “most popular” are not helpful when you’re trying to be persuasive. You have to prove it. What makes you the best, largest, etc. and compared to what? There are six general case arguments that work: How are you going to save them time, money, sanity, provide security, help them have fun, or make things easy?
For me, and I’ve written about being an introvert, this advice makes the idea of an elevator speech very do-able. I am certainly not shy, but I do prefer to have a well-crafted and thoughtful presentation ready. The thought of coming up with a three minute persuasive elevator speech off-the-cuff is terrifying. I may miss opportunities to share ideas I am passionate about with people who might also be passionate about them because I am not as good a spontaneous verbal communicator. Having a few talking points on a variety of topics ready to share any time and anywhere makes me feel much more confident. For the extroverts among us, having these planned speeches could help them focus their message into the three minutes they may get to share their ideas without overwhelming their audience.