Proving our worth: the elevator pitch

Garland Building elevator operators by Angle Torres. Used under CC-BY-NC-ND.

Garland Building elevator operators by Angle Torres. Used under CC-BY-NC-ND.

One of the tools we can use to articulate the worth of our libraries is the elevator pitch. This can be a powerful tool to make a quick and memorable point.

The idea of the elevator pitch comes from an imaginary scenario where you are sharing an elevator ride with someone that you want to impress, be it your boss, a senior figure in your funding body, or a stranger that might become a strong advocate (or even donor) for your library. You’ve got somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes to tell this person something that they will remember, and make them want to seek you out and find out more. What do you say?

Literature on this topic suggests that, in that tiny time frame, you need to cover:

  • Who you are
  • What you, your department, your service or your library does
  • Why that matters
  • What the other person can do about it

For example, you might say “My name is Sarah, I’m responsible for buying books for the local public library. My work means that members of our community have access to information they need to manage their lives, seek jobs, educate themselves and their children, and read for leisure. We struggle to get enough money to buy this material, but it’s highly valuable to our users. We’ve got a funding drive on at the moment which I can tell you more about.”

Some key points about elevator pitches:

  • They need to be understandable by your audience – which might mean cutting out jargon (note in the example above Sarah was not the ‘acquisitions manager’, because this title doesn’t tell non-librarians what she actually does)
  • They need to be relevant to your audience – what do they care about?
  • All unnecessary information should be removed – practice your pitch, and take out any unnecessary words. This gives you more time to answer questions at the end
  • You need to be passionate about what you’re saying – your passion will increase the impact of your pitch

Try developing an elevator pitch for the following scenarios:

  • The boss of your library asks you what you’re working on
  • A wealthy philanthropist asks what you do
  • Someone who doesn’t use your library asks you why they should

Remember, elevator pitches can be used at networking functions, in line for coffee, at a dinner party, and on the information desk at your library.

More about elevator pitches:

We had a go at the ‘Pixar Pitch’ described in the video above from Nonprofit Hub and came up with the following:

Once upon a time librarians around the world worked in isolation from each other. Every day they wondered how libraries in other countries operated, but could only read published material. Most of them couldn’t afford to travel to international conferences. One day, three librarians in Sydney created a way to connect librarians around the world at no cost. Because of that, people were able to develop professional networks outside of their own country. Because of that, our community could ask questions, solve problems, and share expertise around the world. Until finally, over 2000 librarians became part of an international network of librarians.

What do you think?

If you’d like to share your elevator pitch ideas with the rest of the ILN community, you can do so via our Twitter or Facebook pages, or in the comments section below.

5 comments

  1. […] meet so many people and it’s important to make a lasting (positive) impression. Ensure you have your elevator pitch ready so you can wow your new […]

  2. KRLemmons · · Reply

    Reblogged this on Lifelong Quest.

  3. Reblogged this on libchellethelibrarian and commented:
    Great way to not only capture and engage an audience for a library but also a useful tool to use in job applications.

    1. Great suggestion! Might have to practice an elevator pitch before our next job interview 🙂

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