Wikopedia: An elevator pitch, elevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition. “Elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes and is widely credited to Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso (while he was Editor for Vanity Fair) for its origin. The term itself comes from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator. If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, the conversation will continue after the elevator ride or end in exchange of business cards or a scheduled meeting.
OK. Are you ready? What is Rotary? Can you give me a succinct, well thought out one to two minute answer that is informative, interesting, and gives someone a reason to ask for more information? We spent a good bit of time discussing how to tell Rotary’s story at the International Assembly. Apparently someone thinks it might be helpful if our Rotary salesforce (that would be us, folks) knew how to answer this question. And, unfortunately for us, it appears that we are expected to come up with our own elevator speech. The most Rotary is willing to do is to give us is “Essence and Organizing Principals” for our answer. The rest is up to us.
Before I give you my elevator speech, here’s some scary information from Rotary’s public image survey. 1) Four in ten have never heard of Rotary. 2) Another four in ten have heard of our “name only.” and 3) Only two in ten claim to have “some familiarity” with Rotary…and unfortunately what they know is often colored by misperceptions and half-truths. Given these facts, consider this: When someone asks you about Rotary it is highly likely that your answer will be the only information that person has about our organization. And when that person talks about Rotary with someone else, it will color that person’s understanding of who we are.
The problem is, of course, that Rotary is such a diverse organization that it’s hard to define it in a short meaningful sentence. So, direct from p.26 of my International Assembly Governor-Elect Workbook, here are three bullet points about the essence of who we are as an organization. Our essence provides clarity in answering the question of what is Rotary.
1) Rotary joins leaders from all continents, cultures, and occupations. NOTE: Can ANY other organization say the same? Maybe the U.N.? This is a differentiating factor separating us from other non-profit service organizations.
2) We exchange ideas, bringing our expertise and diverse perspectives to help solve some of the world’s toughest problems. NOTE: Again, it is our global infrastructure that allows us to tackle “world” size problems.
3) And we take action to bring lasting change to our communities around the world. NOTE: You know what I’m going to say…communities around the world.
When you craft your speech, remember that ethical service does not differentiate Rotary from dozens of other organizations. Building friendships does not. Solving community problems does not. You can join the Boy Scouts and do ethical service, build great relationships, and solve problems in the local community. What makes Rotary different?
Note to readers: This is the part of the blog post where I include a barely relevant movie clip for pure entertainment purposes. In doing my research about elevator scenes in movies I didn’t realize how much sex goes on in elevators. Forget about learning an elevator speech. Apparently elevators are either for lovemaking or for fighting. Having thoroughly researched all of the sex in elevator scenes, I’ve decided to go with an action sequence from Captain America, Winter Soldier. I hope your next elevator ride doesn’t turn out like this.
Here’s an elevator pitch I wrote down from one of the Plenary sessions. It incorporates all of the elements of Rotary’s essence :
“Rotary unites leaders from all continents, cultures, and occupations, to exchange ideas and take action for communities around the world.”
Not a bad start, but shouldn’t we add something about friendships and fun? How about:
“Rotary unites leaders from all continents, cultures, and occupations, to exchange ideas and take action for communities around the world. Rotarians build great friendships while solving problems in our local communities and around the world.”
Not bad. I’ll bet you could come up with something better. If you do, please share with the rest of us. It’s time to become expert Rotary story tellers.
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