Workshop Highlights

The objective

Elevator speech is an analogy, not a description. When you want to speak briefly and purposefully about some topic, you're rarely in an elevator, and you're rarely giving a speech. What matters is being prepared to speak about some topic—the current status of your project, say, or reasons to support some initiative—when a brief opportunity appears.

(The original idea was that you could deliver your "speech" while riding with someone in an elevator.)

How Good is Your Elevator Speech? provides the opportunity to prepare for such occasions, to develop an elevator speech for a specific situation, and to gain skill in delivering such a speech. The workshop also includes listening to the speeches of others and exchanging useful feedback about elevator speeches.

The examples in the workshop relate to the role of a CTO or TA, but the techniques apply to anyone who wants to capitalize on opportunities to discuss some topic effectively.

The agenda

Participants briefly discuss possible occasions on which they might want to deliver an elevator speech. They then listen to a roleplay of a speech and use a checklist to critique what they've heard.

The main part of the workshop involves participants working in teams of three. Each team member chooses a topic and prepares an elevator speech. in turn, each person delivers an elevator speech, acts as the audience for a speech, and observes the other two teammates as speaker and audience.

After each speech, participants replay a recording of the speech and offer their observations.

The main stages of the workshop apply to preparation of elevator speeches in nearly any setting:

Specify the situation Choose a likely situation. Choose when and where you'd be speaking. Identify your audience (whether an individual or a group).
Prepare what you want to say Take time to organize your thoughts and select the best points or examples.
Practice in a controlled setting Choose your audience—even an audience of one—so you can practice with little risk of getting things "wrong."
Listen to yourself afterward Record your conversation and replay it, you gain a new perspective on how you appear to others. You'll recognize strengths as well as areas for improvement.
Critique yourself Use the elevator speech checklist, guidelines for feedback, and other tools to review your own presentation as (and your partner's, if you're working with someone).
Set goals for the future Describe what you want to do and what you want to avoid doing when you next have an opportunity to speak informally about your project.

The workshop materials include several best practices and a checklist for critiquing elevator speeches.