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Unformatted text preview: The ELEVATOR SPEECH:
Its Important Role in Science
The "elevator speech" is intended for that ephemeral, 2-minute unanticipated window of opportunity for
capturing someone's attention and conveying to them the essence and importance of what you do.
The elevator speech has long been a mainstay of the business world. With the continued blending of
many aspects of business and science (driven in part by heightened competition for dwindling resources),
the elevator speech should hold an important place in science. Its importance to science, however, usually
goes unnoticed. You can read one view of the role for the elevator speech in science here: "'Emerging'
Pollutants, and Communicating the Science of Environmental Chemistry and Mass Spectrometry –
Pharmaceuticals in the Environment," J Am Soc Mass 2001 12(10):1067-1076 (in the web version, the
pertinent section can be found by searching for "elevator" or going to page 11 at:
Certain business schools (e.g., Wake Forest University's Babcock Graduate School of Management) have
formal elevator speech competitions, where students are given 2 minutes (and NO MORE) to pitch their
business idea to a hypothetical venture capitalist; the Wake Forest "Elevator" web site can be accessed
(after an introductory animated screen) at: http://www.mba.wfu.edu/elevator/. The Wake Forest
competition has been covered in a range of news stories: http://www.mba.wfu.edu/elevator/news.html .
Here's a segment that was broadcast by NPR's MarketPlace: "Elevator Competition" (by Leda Hartman,
22 April 2003) can be accessed from:
or directly accessed from here:
http://www.marketplace.org/play/audio.php?media=/2003/04/21_mpp&start=00:00:22:48.0&end= If you are interested in the importance of science communication (and how it can be improved), an array
of pertinent resources can be found here:
Just as with the business community, where expertise at "pitching" an idea is critical to success, any
research organization can also benefit from hosting its own "elevator competitions". The objective is for
each scientist to convincingly convey in LESS THAN 2 minutes the importance of their work to a panel
of judges (which can simply be the audience at large, preferably a mixture of scientists and laity); visuals
are disallowed since the elevator speech is intended for moments of opportunity that usually cannot be
anticipated. Presenters should imagine themselves on the same elevator as their senior-level managers
(those in charge of funding). Each presenter should imagine having a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to
make a convincing argument for why they need substantial new resources to pursue their newly patented
idea (such as "Saving the Environment on a Shoestring").
Elevator competitions can hone the skills of scientists in framing their highly technical work in words
that have meaning to all — a benefit not just for conveying the significance or importance of individual
research projects to the public, but also to management and for garnering new resources. The spectrum of
scientists' abilities to communicate the value of their work is usually found to be vast at any organization.
Improving these abilities usually proves to be an enormous benefit to all.
Prepared by Christian Daughton (U.S. EPA, Las Vegas) 22 April 2003
(this page is referred from: http://www.epa.gov/nerlesd1/chemistry/pharma/comm.htm) ...
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