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					Elevating Your
Elevator Talk
  Katherine E. Rowan, Ph.D.
   George Mason University

       Presentation for the
         BIO IT Coalition
   at George Mason University
        October 19, 2005
     What IS an Elevator Talk?
   Simple, non-technical summary or
    explanation of an idea that could be
    expressed on a short elevator ride
   Requires ―non-geeky,‖ audience-centered
   The statement you would make if you have
    no access to notes or illustrations, as in an

What an Elevator Talk is NOT
   The ―office talk‖ -- the 5-minute
    explanation of your work given when you
    have access to paper or whiteboard (Reis)
   The ―guest lecture,‖ the 20-minute version
   Long-winded comments that make fellow
    passengers want to get off the elevator early
   Self-focused comments (―what I need….‖)

    Who “Invented” the Phrase?
   Perhaps Richard Reis, Stanford. He created
    several programs to improve the elevator-
    talk capacities of Stanford graduate students
   Phrase ―elevator talk‖ found in trade
    literature, marketing literature via ―Google‖
    – Garry Duncan in Denver Business Journal
      describes how to take your elevator talk to a
      ―floor above the rest.‖
        Why Developing Good
      Elevator Talks is Important
   They build support for you and your work
   They build enthusiasm for your field
   They serve as a reality check—if you can explain
    a complexity, you understand it more fully
   They, or the ability to explain clearly, literally
    can save lives

    Elevator Talk Challenges, 1
   Knowing who‘s on that elevator with you
    – To some, the terms, pharma and CROs, will
      sound like farms and an unfamiliar acronym;
      others will understand
   Being brief
    – Assume a three-story building

     Elevator Talk Challenges, 2

   Explaining without notes or visuals
   Explaining without patronizing
   Explaining in a way that encourages your
    listener to think with you
   Communicating about a concept where there
    could be pre-conceived notions (BIO IT ---
    too specialized to be profitable?)

    Elevator Talk Challenges, 3
   Communicating in the language of your
    audience to build credibility
   Communicating using words that nearly
    everyone—the ―masses,‖ ―fifth-graders,‖
    investors, county commissioners, can
   Making clear your ability to solve some
    problem important to your audience

         Great Elevator Talks, 1
   Great elevator talks are short
    – So what‘s a PEO (Professional Employer
    – Answer (the elevator talk): “We solve payroll,
      personnel, and insurance problems.” (Schneider)
   Great elevator talks address problems that
    – “I study why some nations are rich and others are
       poor.” (Peter Boettke, George Mason economist)
       Great Elevator Talks, 2
   Great elevator talks use simple terms
    – FIRST TRY: ―The Sirsi ILS now generates
      native RSS 2 feeds.‖
    – MUCH BETTER: “The new software can tell
      patrons when the library has a new book they
      (from Schneider,

      Goals for Elevator Talks
   To generate  Confidence
   To create    Awareness
   To deepen    Understanding
   To create    Satisfaction with your solution
   To encourage Enactment
    (Rowan’s CAUSE Model for Communication)

      Overcoming Barriers:
      Expect and Address
           Goal                                Very
                           Easy   Difficult
   Earn    Confidence                
 Create    Awareness        
Deepen     Understanding             
   Gain    Satisfaction                          
Motivate   Enactment                             

        How to use “CAUSE”
   Why elevator talk may not be effective:
    – Lack of confidence in your motives, competence?
    – Lack of awareness of acronyms, jargon
    – Lack of understanding (can pronounce, but do not
      understand key terms, can‘t visualize)
    – Lack of satisfaction or agreement with ideas?
    – Lack of enactment, action, follow through?

      Earning Confidence
   Key Obstacle
    – Doubts about speaker‘s competence
   Solution
    – Be clear and accessible
    – Choose simple words
   Be friendly, real
   Use sentences that elicit questions

         Earning Confidence
   Earn Confidence with direct eye contact
   Earn Confidence with enthusiasm
   Earn Confidence with authenticity
   Earn Confidence with active listening

             Creating Awareness
   To increase comprehension, begin with the big
    –   NOT -- We deal with pharma (could be mis-heard)
    –   BUT rather -- We’re a software company that helps
        scientists understand disease and ways to combat it.
   Avoid acronyms and jargon (CROs, pharma)

           Creating Awareness
   Connect to everyday experiences
    –   “We’re a clinical research organization. Most
        people remember when they were in college and
        they read ads in the local paper looking for
        participants in some study. The ads said you’d
        get $10 for participating, maybe beer money.
        Well, now clinical research organizations or
        CROs are a $40 billion industry” (Pat
        Donnelly, President & CEO PRA International,
        on Tommorow’s Business Radio)
      Deepening Understanding
   Sometimes awareness is not enough
   People often need fuller comprehension
   When explaining complex information,
    anticipate two standard obstacles or sources of
    – Familiar words not well understood
    – Ideas hard-to-understand because hard to visualize

     Explaining Familiar Words
       Often Misunderstood
   Examples
    – Convergence
    – Biotech
    – Clinical research trial

    Clarifying Intended Meaning
   Research shows confusion is often caused
    NOT solely by jargon but by familiar words.
   Examples
    –   Biotech, BIO IT
    –   Enterprise information management
    –   Convergence
    –   Clinical application of therapies

    Clarifying Intended Meaning
   To address confusion over key terms
    – Use a familiar experience or example first
    – Define by essential features, not associated features,

    A biotech product involves the use of cells or cell
    components to make or modify products such as food
    and pharmaceuticals, wine, cheese, etc.

    Clarifying Intended Meaning
   Give a range of examples, not just one
    – Biotech products include new treatments for
      Parkinson’s disease, Monsanto’s Bt corn, and
      ancient technologies such as bread making,
      which uses the one-celled animal, yeast. There
      are also biotech services such as ….
   Use a ―non-example‖
    – Breeding animals by conventional means is NOT
      an example of biotechnology.
                 Encouraging Visualization
         People may struggle to understand your business
          NOT because of key terms but because it is hard
          to envision
              – Research and Development. What‘s development?
               What steps are you taking?

                                         Discovery                                           Development

Therapeutic      Target      Target        Lead               Lead             Preclinical         Clinical      Regulatory              Product
  concept       selection   validation   finding          optimization        development        development      approval

                                                   Lead           Candidate                                               Registration
                                             compound               drug

      Encouraging Visualization
   You are in an elevator so you cannot use a piece
    of paper or whiteboard, but you can
   Use analogies (DNA is a library of instructions)
   Use previews -- The biopharmaceutical industry
    consists of three groups: university spin-offs,
    big pharmaceutical companies, and a third
    group that speed up drug discovery and
      Encouraging Visualization
   Example
    – We help with five steps in the clinical trial process:
        Protocol design
        Patient recruitment

        Data capture and scrubbing

        Analysis and reporting

        Warehousing

           Now It’s YOUR Turn
   Let‘s look at some elevator talks
   Seem positive?
   Focus on solving
    problems that matter
    in everyday life?
   Avoid jargon?
   Explain terms?
   Promote visualizing?

       Sample Elevator Talk A
Sample talk to analyze:
  ―Well, the title of my dissertation is ‗experimental
  investigation of social support as a predictor of
  emergency preparedness.‘ I am looking for a job
  right now, and I have a lot to offer many

       Sample Elevator Talk B
Sample talk to analyze:
  You‘ve probably heard of microchips. We use
  them to run all sorts of complex things such as
  your car, satellites, and even pacemakers for
  people‘s hearts. Unfortunately, microchips don‘t
  always work the way they should. I study ways to
  see if they are working correctly.

               In Summary
   Use CAUSE model to identify obstacles
   Practice your elevator talk. Seek feedback.
   Be enthusiastic
   Realize there are no magic words
   There are better and worse steps
   Your steps will be good ones

   Garry Duncan, ―How to make your ‗elevator talk‘ a floor
    above the rest.‖ Denver Business Journal, Feb. 11, 2005
   Rang, H. P. The drug discovery process (visual in slide 23)
   Rowan, K. E. (1991). Goals, obstacles, and strategies in
    risk communication. Journal of Applied Communication,
   Rowan, K. E. (1999). Effective explanation of uncertain
    and complex science. In S. Friedman et al.
    Communicating uncertainty. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
   Schneider, K. G. Ontario Library Assn. ComBlog,, Feb. 2005


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