By Heather Lakemacher, Policy Programs Director, Institute for Humane Studies
Simon Sinek has an interesting talk on ted.com about the difference between great leaders and everyone else. He argues that most people, organizations, and companies talk about what they do and how they do it, but they rarely talk about why they do it. In contrast, effective leaders put the why front and center. “Martin Luther King, Jr. gave an ‘I have a dream’ speech,” he says, “not an ‘I have a plan’ speech.”
This idea obviously can influence how you craft your elevator pitch—the fifteen- to thirty-second answer that pops out of your mouth when someone asks, “So, what do you do?” And an elevator pitch should be crafted, not just done on the fly.
Undoubtedly, you’ve had the experience of asking someone else this question and then having the conversation die after they answer, “I’m the Assistant Deputy Officer of Microfinance in the Regulatory Division of Macro-systems USA.” Not only does no one have any idea what that means, it’s also said in a way that discourages further questions.
In contrast, a well-crafted elevator pitch gives you the opportunity to convey enthusiasm about your work, stand out from the crowd, and spark more in-depth conversations. You can explain why you get out of bed each morning to go to work and why your organization’s mission matters to the world. In short, you can tell the person why they should care about what you do.
I’m the Policy Programs Director at the Institute for Humane Studies, but that’s not my elevator pitch. This is:
I believe the surest way to create a peaceful and prosperous society is to free individuals to make the best choices they can for their own lives. I work with talented students throughout the country who share this belief, teaching them intellectual and professional tools that will help them succeed in making this vision a reality.
So, what’s your elevator pitch?