Janet Ruscher, a Professor of Psychology and an associate dean at Tulane University, wrote a thoughtful article about “The Elevator Talk” in the January 2014 Observer, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science. She suggested that you should always be prepared for an “elevator talk” about what you do. Here are several of her pointers:
- Be brief. She suggests 1-2 minutes max.
- Be accessible. Don’t use jargon or acronyms that may not be understood.
- Consider the perspective of the listener. Is your answer engaging or interesting?
- Be prepared for this moment. Think about your job and then craft a short engaging few sentences about what you do.
- Craft your answer such that for most people there will be something interesting they might ask as a follow-up, something that might start an interesting conversation. Ruscher calls this “a hook.”
- Be direct, not subtle, not highly detailed, in other words, “Just go up, not sideways” (p. 15).
- Practice your answer.
- Periodically revise your answer.
Impression management is important. Some do it naturally; for others it is an acquired skill. Still others it just is not viewed as a professional concern.
I have never really thought about the “elevator talk” and its role, or potential role. Ruscher’s advice to think about it, craft something, and practice seems to have merit. I am sure our answers will be situational to some degree but there are probably a few core ideas that express well what we do. How long has it been since you really thought about what you do? That exercise in and of itself may hold insights, even surprises.
Ruscher, J. (2014). The elevator talk. Observer, 27 (1), 15.
Image by susi.bsu. I cropped image slightly and adjusted saturation/highlights. From https://www.flickr.com/photos/62517473@N06/9009908540/
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