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Can you stand up in front of 1000 people and state your personal elevator speech in 20 seconds?

Posted on: November 14, 2009

A personal elevator speech

When I taught at the University of Canterbury, my colleague Peter Cammock, would ask our class of 900 or so students, whether they could stand up and state their life purpose in a 20 second elevator speech.

Elevator speeches are hard to write at the best of times. When they are yours too, they are really hard.

Crafting our elevator speech

There are perhaps 5 things that are helpful to understand about elevator speeches that help us in this task

  • Structure
  • Resonance with our deepest beliefs
  • The story of where we have come from and where we are going
  • Our immediate influences
  • And what we are still not sure about

Structure of an elevator speech

An elevator speech is a mini-business plan. Or a mini-operational order. It has five parts.

  • Situation – the story that is bigger than us
  • Mission – that part of the collective story that we will write
  • Execution – the chunks of our mission that can be fulfilled as sub-missions
  • Administration – the resources that we need
  • Communication – how will we know how well we are doing and who should we tell

[SMEAC]

Resonance with our deepest beliefs

Our elevator speech is not about what we must do, or what other people expect us to do. Duty wears us out and is sure to wear out anyone who is listening!

Our elevator speech is about those dearly held beliefs that are vital and engaging. Our elevator speech is about what brings us alive, what we quickens our pulse, and what brings a light to our eyes. If only we could see that!

The key to finding this magical place is to look at our relationship with others. What is that we love to to do and others love us to do?

We are likely to find this place in our our work, which even if solitary, like painting, is sociable ~ it is for others to use and enjoy.

Who are these others? What were we hoping when we started our work? How do we, or how do we hope to bring the light to other people’s eyes that we want in our own?

It is here, a unique place for each of us, where we feel totally at home. It is here that we live wholeheartedly and we don’t have to plan. It is here that “our deep gladness and the world’s hunger meets”!

Our story

The curious thing about our stories is that so much of our lives are disappointing. What would you feel if you were a graduate in today’s UK facing 20% unemployment and debts from your education?

How would you feel if you were like me? Your country gone. Your house gone. Your career gone. Your life in disarray.

Well, whatever we feel, we should not disown our stories. Our stories give us perspective and the more we have lost, the more perspective we have. As a noobe in the UK, my rich paste and perspective is a gift to people in my new home. My very disappointment is what I have to enrich the lives of others.

Our influences

As I arrived in a new country, I felt muddled. Any disruption ~ a new job, a new house, new friends ~ might have confused me. Losing a country is just an extreme mutation of a general theme!

Slowly, we begin to make sense of what we contribute through our interactions. I do a lot of work on the internet and I was helped on my way by reading the Chief Happiness Officer, Steve Roesler, and Barbara Sliter.

My mission is to be happy

From the Chief Happiness Officer, I learned that my job is to be happy. I felt a bit silly, I must tell you, until I realised that happiness isn’t my vision. My happiness isn’t the bigger story or the shared story. My happiness is my mission.

My happiness is how I contribute to the shared story because happiness is contagious. Because I am a noobe. Because I have a rich past and my perspective on what is good and true at this time and in this place helps people around me fulfil their missions, whatever those missions may be.

My vision is a world where we are confident of our countries

I learned my vision from Barbara Sliter.

“We are ready for more: more meaning, more challenge, better environments, interesting work, balance of life. We are ready to be co-creators”.

I want to contribute to the world where our search for meaning is more legitimate, easier, likelier, just fun. Less hassle and more fun.

My vision, which I think is widely shared, is a world where people wake up with curiosity about what the day holds and sure that their contribution today makes their country great and their community great, their workplaces, schools and colleges thrive, and their families happy and warm places to be.

The execution

And I learned how to execute my mission from Steve Roesler. Steve suggested that employees must start the conversation. I am a work psychologist, so this is important to me.

My specific task in the next year or so is to learn, with other people, how to have these conversations, what it means to have these conversations, what are our choices when we have these conversations, and ultimately of course, what we have learned from these conversations and how they have evolved.

My immediate task, or rule-of-thumb, is to attend to my own conversation with work and people I work with ~”The way we hold the conversation” as David Whyte says.

I am not going to worry about what other people are doing. I am going to ask: does the way I hold my conversation about my work make me happy?

And then I will ask, if changing the way I hold the conversation makes me happy, does the conversation become better, fuller, richer, for other people around me? Do I fullfil my mission of being contagiously happy?

Our uncertainties

Like most people, I don’t say aloud, or post, what is really important to me. I wrote this post a good 18 months ago and I didn’t post it! But it was still in my drafts. Thank goodness for blogging! I wish I had posted it though. This is how far I have come.

I have pursued the vision and mission OK but I didn’t follow through the execution in a focused way. Imagine where I would be now if I had done so? Of course, I can do that now! With a little bit of thought, I can add the steps to be executed to other work that I am doing now!

Elevator speeches in brief!

And there we have it. Elevator speeches have a standard structure. We find out who and what we are in conversations including our work. Some people help us pinpoint what we are doing and where we are going.

We bring in our own story ~ as it is. Often our very disappointments which give us the perspective that others find valuable.

And then we must be bold enough to say what we are doing aloud!

Possibly I should add a step under execution:

Find more places to say my elevator speech aloud so that it gets better and crisper, shorter and more relevant.

I want to bring a light to other people’s eyes.

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2 Responses to "Can you stand up in front of 1000 people and state your personal elevator speech in 20 seconds?"

I just bookmarked this. This is good stuff. I’ve never heard of elevator speeches before, but the concept behind it is fascinating.

Understanding them easily applies to much more than giving speeches. Its about condensing the ideas of one’s purpose. I spent time in the army so the mini-op order concept really makes a lot of sense. In a day and age when we are forced to reduce our concepts and ideas to the thinnest bulk possible – understanding how to create a 20 second mission statement is something absolutely worth knowing.

Great to meet you today. Good luck with the tea!

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