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Developing a 'Lift Speech'

A 'lift speech' gets its name from an imaginary scenario in which you or a member of your group find themselves in an elevator or lift with someone you would really like to impress with information about your group or organisation.

The scenario dictates that you only have 30 seconds to get your message across, to "sell" your group to the person in the elevator. Obviously that means your 'lift speech' needs to be short, sharp, clear and to the point.

Developing a 'lift speech' that fits these criteria, without scrimping on information about your group and what it does, requires a certain amount of preparation.  However, spending time on preparing a 'lift speech' for your group has many benefits, including:
  • Focuses and solidifies your group's message/actions/activities/stance in the minds of those who learn the speech.
  • Provides a short, sharp basis to build on when explaining or introducing your group to those who know very little about it. A good ice-breaker in many situations.
  • Can be tailored to certain situations depending on your group's current needs or activities – for example, a membership drive, call for donations, publicity effort or awareness raising exercise.
  • It can be a time saver, as a good 'lift speech' can be used as a basis to build on for future marketing or media efforts.
  • Possible money spinner, if the 'lift speech' has enough impact to stick in the memory of potential donors or fundraisers.
  • It can be a real asset for growth in numbers, recognition and influence for your group if it is effective and stays with people who hear it.
  • It can provide some great sound bites – short, sharp, catchy quotes for media organisations.



'Lift speeches' and the media

A good 'lift speech' can be invaluable when it comes to working with the media.

Because the media are limited in the amount of time or space they can devote to a single topic or issue, you have to get your message across quickly and effectively and that's where some form of a 'lift speech' can come in very handy.

The media love good, strong, succinct quotes that convey the message quickly, explicitly and in an entertaining manner.  Spokespeople who are "media-savvy" or "good talent" have the ability to do that. They don't waffle or endlessly qualify – they say it straight.

Your group or organisation may have to vary your 'lift speech' when working with the media – shortening it to 15 seconds for example, or altering its content depending on the focus of the media's inquiries. If refining it helps get the right message across, then it is worth every second spent on it.


How to develop a 'lift speech'

A 'lift speech' is not adlib, it's something you should have already, tried, practised, polished and tested with friends, colleagues and family.

The power of the 'lift speech' is in the delivery. And as with any speech, it must have an opening, a body and an ending.

You need to be:
  • Brief
  • Clear
  • Enthusiastic
  • Candid, and
  • Speak in plain language.
There are various suggestions and tips on what you put in and on how to deliver your speech.
  • Some people advise you to answer these four questions:
  1. Where has your organisation been?
  2. Where is it today?
  3. Where is it headed in the future?
  4. What will it cost to get there?
  • Another method to start with is to fill in the blanks of a sentence similar to this:
"(Name of group) works with (client group) to (statement of need or opportunity) so they can (outcome) which means that (statement of key benefit). We're the only (unique selling point) and if we can raise another (amount) we can (forward projection) and achieve (new goal)."

Using the above guidelines this could read as follows:

"The Browndale Environment Group works with the local community, our volunteers and the local council to reclaim and rehabilitate local waterways so they increase flow and water quality which means they remain a vital part of the area's eco-system and encourage the return of native wildlife.

"We are the only group which looks after the waterways in the Browndale area, and if we can attract 20 more members and raise a few thousand extra dollars, we can work on rehabilitating another 3kms of rivers and streams in the next year."

That's not the finish. That's the start of the process. That exercise has forced you to jot down the key points. Now you need to work on it to turn that information into a tight, exciting, inspiring message.

Look at your preliminary lift speech and fine-tune it.  Make it flow a little better or address the specific issue that you may be questioned on. Keep shuffling words and ideas around until you have your 'lift speech' sounding just right. Then experiment with a slightly shorter or slightly longer version.


Final 'lift speech' thoughts

The 'lift speech' doesn't directly ask for money, unless you are actually carrying a tin at the time! It's aimed at encapsulating your message so that, for instance:
  • When you ring the person later for a donation, to get them to join as a member or help as a volunteer - you can say "You remember we spoke about..."
  • If you submit a grant application or send them an invitation to a fundraiser they will recognise you.
  • The general public will have more knowledge of what you do after hearing you speak through the media.
A key thing to remember is you want to get invited to expand further on the subject. Ask for a business card or contact details of the person, "in the lift", you have delivered your speech to. That way you can follow up with them later.

If you don't think you are confident enough to give a 'lift speech' just remind yourself that if your group is a good one, doing good things and representing a positive cause, then you should be proud to sell it to others.  

All it needs is practice.  It can help your confidence and if you have your 'lift speech' learned and prepared, it can help your group's finances as well!



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