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Karen ThudiumJeffrey CramerKaren E. Thudium is a senior scientist at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Oncology Clinical Pharmacology. She supports clinical development with expertise in biologics  in oncology drug development. Karen completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University at Buffalo and Novartis after receiving her Doctorate of Pharmacy and Masters of Science in Clinical Pharmacokinetics from the University of Rhode Island.
Jeff Cramer, Ph.D., has been involved in drug development for over 30 years, initially in the drug metabolism arena at Schering-Plough and subsequently in clinical pharmacology at Sandoz. For the last 15 years, Jeff has focused on oncology drug development at Novartis where he is currently executive director of Oncology Clinical Pharmacology.

We have all found ourselves in an elevator, in the cafeteria line, or at the coffee machine when a senior manager appears. We can choose to: quietly avoid conversation or engage in conversation. The latter of the two is the preferred choice but the question is: What does one say without wasting their time? This is an opportunity that must be seized. You have the undivided attention of an influential person for a brief moment, but knowing how to properly seize this opportunity is a learned technique. Some may choose to talk about the weather—a neutral topic—but what benefit does it have for either party? Others may discuss what they did over the weekend—perhaps this humanizes us, but ultimately does not accomplish much. Formulating an “elevator speech” is one way of preparing yourself for such situations. It may help you navigate a brief interaction and even help you come out ahead. Knowing what to say with only seconds to spare will likely require practice, but there are several general guides that one can apply to help drive the conversation.

It is important to first understand what an elevator speech is and how it should be used. The term “elevator speech” reflects the idea that it should be possible for one to deliver a summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes. If the message adds value for the receiver, the interaction may continue, end in the exchange of business cards, or result in a follow-up meeting.

The notion of an elevator speech is neither new nor unique to a specific industry; in fact, it is often used in sales, business, and politics to quickly get points across—scientists should have one too! In the era of social media, an elevator speech can help you create a relationship with people: a verbal business card with a personalized touch. To successfully prepare and deliver an elevator speech, there are a few things one should consider:

1) Know your audience—The best elevator speech should be adaptable.

2) Stimulate interest—Hooking your audience may stimulate further communication.

3) Generate a value proposition—Demonstrating tangible significance to your audience makes you memorable.

There are thousands of online references and YouTube clips on “elevator speeches,” but adapting these to your specific needs will require preparation and practice. One way to start preparing an elevator speech is to think about your best career accomplishments, ongoing challenges/possible solutions for your project, or how you have added value to your organization, which should naturally come to mind and will differ dramatically for recent grads and experienced professionals. As you embark on career development discussions with your manager, use those accomplishments as a resource to help you build or perfect your elevator speech or perhaps identify a peer mentor that could help coach you.

You never know when you will find yourself in an elevator with the CEO, so be prepared, act natural, and generate interest!