Glass Elevators: Why Elevator Speeches Matter

Yesterday I attended an important meeting with important people.  I was not scheduled to speak. 

 Until… a  good friend of mine in Finance (p.s. always have a good friend in Finance) batted the conversation my way. 

A gift.

  • What’s our channel’s  mission? 
  • How are our results?
  • What’s our team best at? 
  • How have we improved?

The buttons on the figurative elevator were pressed… time to roll.

You see, I am familiar with elevators, and what can happen in them.

Early Elevators 

Very early in my career, a VP several levels above me asked me to attend a very controversial meeting on his behalf.  To this day, I don’t know if it was deliberate (because he thought I could add value), or  if he really didn’t understand the controversial nature of the meeting, or if he was just scared.

The minute I walked in, I was questioned as to why I was there ( instead of the VP).   I stayed (not knowing if I should), and it was down hill from there.

I listened to all the ideas for the major undertaking that were being presented.  Being completely naive about how to approach such things, I said everything that was on my mind… no filters… to everyone in the room.  This involved questioning the entire methodology of some very well-thought out plans of some amazing leaders.   I was discounted, and should have been.  I did not approach it well.

Sooo…. later that day… when I ran into that VP  in the elevator (huge building, crazy coincedence), I looked at the floor.  The next thing I heard… Karin, I have been thinking.  You may be on to something.   Please tell me what you wanted to say….

I told her and got involved.  That project transformed my career, and she became a fantastic mentor.

A bit later

So years later, as I grew in leadership responsibility, I wanted the best folks on my team to always be prepared to tell their story and share their ideas in a meaningful and concise way.   From time to time, I lead  “mentoring circles” on the subject of elevator speeches.

I always begin these sessions with my latest “elevator speech” as an example

  • what our team is about
  • how we are making a difference
  • real statistics of how we are improving
  • and my leadership vision to lead that team

One time, after doing the session with a great group of front line leaders,  I got into the elevator.  We had just been through a reorganization that week and I had a new senior leader that I had not yet met (but he must have seen my picture). 

He looks at me and says, “Hey, Aren’t you on my new team?  What’s your story?”

So I shared my newly minted elevator speech. 

That worked too.

Since then, I always keep one fresh.

Tomorrow morning

 I am attending another important meeting in a very big hotel… lots of elevators…lots of people.  

 Keeping it fresh.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Marcus on June 14, 2012 at 5:20 am

    Nice post. I read it first thing this morning. I need an elevator speech right about now in my career. Thx honey.


  2. You’ve tried several ways to get me to distill my economic message to an elevator speech.
    I still haven’t gotten there – but I recognize it is good advice.


  3. you have a great message… and there is great value in the complexity. I will continue to consider potential hooks for your next elevator ride.


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