Thursday, May 19, 2011

"So... What do you do for a living?"

The Elevator Pitch is a meticulously crafted message, usually to sell an idea to a prospective investor. It is generally a short audio highlight reel, commonly used as a sales pitch, but I think it can be useful in many different situations.

For me, the most apt time for me to use a short, engaging presentation, is in introducing myself. Whether meeting educators for the first time, or striking up a conversation with fellow golfers on the tee block, I'd prefer to pitch myself as something more than 'teacher'. I just don't appreciate the baggage that sometimes comes with the job title, especially when I'm not sure about the other person's past scholastic experience. Maybe that's why my most recent name badge listed my job title as 'Education Change Agent'.

A Skill Worth Teaching
In recent months I've seen a few teachers offer students the opportunity to prepare a TED-style talk on a topic of personal interest. While the preparation and delivery of a compelling talk may be a rewarding learning experience, I'm not so sure it's as useful a skill, as the more concise, face-to-face elevator pitch. The ability to enter into an engaging discussion by way of a carefully crafted and well-rehearsed introduction is a practical skill, mastered by few.

With practice, students will be able to tell compelling personal narratives, with confidence, in under two minutes.

1] Role play having students confidently introduce themselves to prospective employers;
2] Give students a 30 second opportunity to sum up their individual contributions to the class or group;
3] Encourage individuals to 'sell' a thesis or project proposal;
4] Allow groups to develop product pitches along the lines of 'Dragons' Den' or 'Shark Tank'.

Kids who model a strong, positive self-image are more likely to be successful in school, work and life. Take the time to lead your charges to the gift of a unique personal elevator pitch. And while you're at it, prepare yourself for the next time you hear the invitation: 'So... What do you do for a living?'

Photo credit: Marco Wessel, James Provost
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