Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Elevator Talk

I'm a faculty scholar in the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health program at UIC and the big emphasis is on career development. I just got this email and wanted to share what I think is a fantastic idea with you:

"The January meeting will focus on scholars' "elevator talks". An elevator talk should highlight your research in a nutshell, is easy for people to understand, and is useful in networking/conference settings (like a pitch).

Each scholar should prepare two versions of their elevator talk: a 2-minute version (more like a cocktail party version) and a 30-second version (if on an elevator with the director of Office for Research on Women's Health, for example). Everyone will practice their talk in the meeting and we will critique them as a group."

Holy cow, what a great thing to have prepared and ready to pull out of your pocket on a moment's notice! As much as I love my research, I do sometimes find it hard to encapsulate it within a reasonable time span and vocabulary for social purposes. And there are those moments at a conference when you look up and realize your fellow passenger is an editor at that press you're hoping to submit your manuscript to, or the director of a funding agency, or someone whose work you admire and have wanted to approach about possibly collaborating. It would be great to have a quick and easy introduction on hand at a fortuitous moment like that. I'm looking forward to working on this and suggest that you find a fellow grad student, colleague, or senior faculty mentor to try it out too. (Hey, why don't we all work on these and try them out on each other at AAPA in a couple of months?)

The "elevator talk/speech/pitch" concept is new to me, but apparently a familiar one in the business world. But since the point of this talk is indeed a sales job, with you as the product, we could probably learn a thing or two from business principles. Here are couple of websites with helpful tips for crafting your elevator talk:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great post, Julienne! Thanks for the tip! (Sorry for the deleted post--trying to get my thumbnail to show.)

  3. I agree whole-heartedly, Julienne, that this is something all of us should have at the ready.

    I was just advising a colleague who has to go in for a lightning-round rapid-fire interview, the British kind where all the candidates go in one after another for 20-minute interviews. I did one of these, and although it went well, I feel like I blacked out during it. I only performed alright because we had done this sort of exercise (2-minute teaching philosophy, 2-minute future project...) in grad school.

    So my advice to all academics, especially anthropologists, is to practice the short versions of your bio, your thesis, your future project, your teaching, etc. The come in handy not only for the lucky meeting with a senior colleague, but also for radio interviews, telephone job interviews, and the like. Certainly in cultural anthropology, we spend so much time complexifying and parsing our projects down to a hair's width that it's good exercise to pull up to the big picture.

    Great reminder to think of prepping for quick communication!