Communicating During Change - Creating a Powerful Elevator Speech

Why do you need an Elevator Speech?

Information and communication have got to be the most important parts of implementing change successfully. For one, they go hand in hand. People need to know what’s happening - why, when, how. And the goal of communication during change is to provide that information in ways that are easy to digest.

And there are many ways to do that. But what about when there’s not much time, when you catch people in passing? Well, that’s where you can make use of an Elevator Speech.

The "Elevator Speech"

The purpose of an Elevator Speech is to clearly articulate the key points of a change. As the name suggests, the aim is to convey key information in about the same time as your average elevator ride. Typically, this change related “speech” will cover:

  • Why - this is why you are doing the change in the first place.
  • How – a high level view of what people can expect to see happen. It doesn’t have to be detailed but it does need to have impact and cover the main points well. This will help start to prepare people for what is coming.
  • When - this will give the people involved and impacted by the change a rough idea of the timescales involved and when they’ll notice things happening.

And that’s great. It’s very informative. But you don’t really want a “speech”. You want a conversation, a two-way dialogue. You’ve got to be concise and clear, but you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) simply broadcast well-tuned messages. For two reasons:

  • You’re not going to engage the other party
  • You’re missing a massive chance to get feedback

Let’s rename it then. It’s not a speech, you’re aiming for something more like a conversation. You probably won’t be in an elevator although there may not be much time.

Short ‘n’ Sweet

What we’ve got then is a short ‘n’ sweet conversation about the change instead of a pre-planned delivery of a speech. Already sounds more appealing to me. The focus should be to:

  1. Help others understand what the change is about
  2. Help them to understand why it’s important
  3. Help them feel comfortable even though this is a less detailed view
  4. Provide space and time for their response
  5. Give them somewhere to go for more information

You see it’s all about them and what they need. You’ll need a certain set of information on the tip of your tongue, ready to go to ignite your short ‘n’ sweet chat. This may simply be the key facts and points that enable you to have a meaningful and beneficial conversation. But it needs to be delivered in ways that are helpful to the other person, the person who may be impacted by the change.

And that’s all about the style. This is really an informal conversation, no matter who you’re talking to. There is no formal agenda, no one is taking minutes, it wasn’t expected – you bumped into each other. So talk to them the way you normally would. And make sure to:

  1. Be honest
  2. Have good information
  3. Be genuine
  4. Be an active listener
  5. Use your “normal” way of speaking (part of being genuine)
  6. Be enthusiastic

Don’t be afraid to ask them what they think, but be prepared to do something proactive with the information you receive. Also, make sure everyone in the change team are singing from the same short ‘n’ sweet song sheet. They need to have the same facts and figures (or whatever you need) on the tips of their tongues too. That way they can use their own natural style to have their own short ‘n’ sweet conversations whilst being true to the key messages for the change.

Finally, don’t forget to give people somewhere else to go for further information. Perhaps directions to online resources on a business card or a badge. Something you can carry a few of and have ready. This not only looks good, it’s a suitably short ‘n’ sweet way that’s easy for them too.

So that’s it. The real, genuine and personable way to deliver what is normally called the elevator speech. The way that will really help people to begin to get engaged with your change.

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