Photo courtesy of Steve Snodgrass (CC Attribution)

Next Floor: Your Elevator Speech

Imagine entering an elevator. You press the button for floor ten. As the door closes, the stranger to your right asks “So, tell me about your institution.” You now have the time to get to floor ten to provide the most accurate and engaging answer that will engage the stranger to want to learn more.

This is the idea of the “elevator speech.”  Every individual in your organization should understand your institution’s brand benefits and distinctives. Your team should understand your brand well enough to accurately and succinctly articulate it in such a way to garner additional interest.

Whether the listener is a prospective student, parent, potential donor, or another constituent, your answer can engage them and move them to the next level of engagement in a personal and authentic way.

The following is a recipe for building your elevator speech.

What Benefits Does Your School Offer?

Begin by answering these questions regarding the benefits your institution provides its students beyond the expected (i.e. an education).

  • What do students graduate from your institution that is a tangible benefit that is unique to your institution (outcomes)?
  • What do students gain while attending your institution (e.g. life skills, relationships, experiences, real-world challenges)?

Add information regarding programs that are unique to your school.

What is Distinctive About Your School?

  • What does our institution do better than other institutions? (e.g. one-on-one mentoring, career services, student life, spiritual formation, etc.)?
  • What is unique about the institution that no one else can claim (e.g. unique study abroad program, tradition, placement of graduates, location, etc.)?

Prove it!

Finalize your elevator speech by offering a proof in the form of a statistic, testimonial, or other data point.

  • A statistic regarding placement, outcome, or other student participation example.
  • A quote or reference to a known figure (or general group, e.g. parents) referencing the institution or its students/graduates.

Tell Me More…

The final part is the call to action. Invite your listener to the next level. It may be offering a business card, referring them to a website, or inviting them to campus.

When it All Comes Together

By assembling the entire speech, you might come up with something like this:

ABC College is a 4-year, private institution focused on preparing students to impact a changing world. Our one-on-one faculty mentoring program, required senior internships for all majors, and unique life-teams provide graduates with not only the knowledge, but the skills to succeed in a dynamic work and life environment. Each year, an average of ninety-five percent of our graduates begin work or continue education in their chosen field and nearly sixty percent of our alumni provide some form of leadership within their spheres of influence: work, church, community, and volunteer organizations. I can provide you my business card with our web address so you can explore further and learn more. Would you like it?

Say it in Your Own Words

Once you have the elevator speech that is unique for your institution, be sure that everyone understands and can articulate it in their own words. It is not important to memorize it, but it is important to be able to individualize it for each member of your team. Admissions might emphasize aspects that may appeal to prospective students and parents; development may underscore benefits that are attractive to donors. It is far more important that the team understands the unique benefits your organization offers and has the skills to communicate it effectively.

Use the following chart to assist your team to build an elevator speech that reflects your institution.

How do you articulate your institution in an elevator speech?