Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's An Elevator Speech Anyway?

If you’re like most people, when you step onto an elevator full of strangers you keep to yourself. You press the button associated with the floor to which you’re heading, step away from the door and the people you don’t know, and watch the numbers light up.

This unique situation, where we are presented with a potentially captive audience but choose not to take advantage of it, led to the creation of the Elevator Speech/Pitch. An elevator speech is a short description of what you do; the point you’d like to make; or a product, service, or organization and its value to the individual or community. The name “elevator speech” comes from the idea that the entire summary should be deliverable in approximately 30-60 seconds, or the time the average person spends on an elevator ride.

Why am I talking about strangers and elevators and speeches, you might ask? Because we, as representatives of the Red Cross, have a responsibility to the organization, and those the organization serves, to create and USE our own elevator speech.

How many times have you mentioned your Red Cross affiliation to someone unfamiliar with the organization (either on an elevator or elsewhere) and received a response like, “Oh sure, you guys host respond to hurricanes, right?” Or, “I took a CPR class once, back when I was in high school.”

Most people have heard of the Red Cross. Many people know a little bit about one piece of the organization. But very few people truly understand how important the Red Cross is to the health and safety of communities across the country and around the world, and your elevator speech can change this.

They’re easy to write. Talk about who you are and why you became a Red Crosser. Talk about what you’ve contributed to the Red Cross. Talk about the impact the Red Cross has on your community. Keep it short and simple, speak to your audience, and share what’s in your heart.

Here’s mine (in response to the “Oh sure, you guys respond to hurricanes, right?” question):

“Yes, we do respond to respond to natural and man-made disasters like floods, tornadoes, and fires. But we also provide relief to local families on average every sixteen hours who fall victim to home fires.  The Red Cross provides assistance whenever and wherever there’s a need, thanks to generous donations from this community, which is what motivated me to become involved in the first place. Might you be interested in getting involved? I’d be happy to connect you to our local chapter!”

Now it’s your turn! Those of you with a Red Cross elevator speech, please consider sharing – perhaps along with a story about using your speech – in the comments section. Those of you without, read through the elevator speeches written by your fellow Red Crossers for ideas. Together we can help our neighbors, communities, country, and world better understand the American Red Cross, one elevator ride at a time.