By Brenda Kostelecky, PhD
Check it out!
Missed the workshop? Not sure where to start? Dr. Mals Marriappan offers his own elevator speech for curious readers. You can listen to his voice recording at Mals_elevator speech.mp3.
Postdoctoral fellows are regularly told to prepare a good "elevator speech" without explanation of what this buzzword means. To help postdocs learn how and why to use elevator speeches, NICHD recently organized the "Giving an Elevator Speech" workshop presented by The Morgan Group. The workshop covered three main topics:
- What is an elevator speech?
- Why do I need an elevator speech?
- How do I prepare an elevator speech?
What is an elevator speech?
The scenario envisioned for an elevator speech is the following: you step into an elevator and unexpectedly come face-to-face with NIH Director Francis Collins, Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, or [insert your professional hero here]. What do you say to this person while you have their undivided attention for two minutes in that elevator? While this exact scenario is somewhat unlikely, postdocs often encounter professionals whose influence or experience can be a benefit. Postdocs should be prepared with a short summary of their work that can pique their audience's interest.
Why do I need an elevator speech?
The elevator speech is intended to introduce yourself and to convince the audience that your work contains mutually interesting and relevant scientific issues. The elevator speech is an important part of a scientist's networking toolbox and thorough preparation of a speech is well worth the effort. Although initially envisioned for encounters in an elevator, the elevator speech can be used when you meet someone new on campus, at a conference, or during an interview. The elevator speech can also be used as an introduction to talks and poster presentations.
How do I prepare an elevator speech?
First, seek common ground with your audience and highlight the scientific issues that are relevant to both of you. Remember that in an interview talk, the entire faculty may be invited and each attendee could get a vote. It may be important to convince epidemiologists, clinicians, and biochemists that your work is relevant to all of them. Second, explain what you focus on and why, getting more specific as you go. Finally, explain how you intend to accomplish your goals. What are the most logical solutions to the problem you've outlined?
Many of the workshop's attendees voiced frustration over the process of preparing an elevator speech. Tutor Scott Morgan helped each participant work methodically through the process. Scott emphasized that the speech will change slightly depending on the circumstances and can be made more fluid by practicing often. The workshop was an excellent opportunity for NICHD postdocs to get assistance preparing an elevator speech and allowed the participants to further improve their essential networking skills.