6/08/2006

Take an elevator ride if you want to learn what a company does When we Edle-people came to work on Monday, it was to a new location, the 29th floor of Centennial Tower in downtown Atlanta. Never mind that it lengthened my commute by a few minutes. This place is incredible! Not only is the facility fabulous, it's smack in the middle of one of the busiest parts of Atlanta. You can feel the energy all day. But the best part has to be the elevators. They're those swanky kind trimmed in marble and wood with mirrored doors, which apparently were purchased from the same place the circus buys its "fun house" mirrors. They make me look fat and quite distorted, but alas, I digress. What I like about the elevators is that when you get on one with a total stranger, a golden opportunity presents itself. It's time to practice "the elevator speech." (We were on the fifth floor in our last facility, so there was barely time to say "good morning.") Every time I've been on the elevator this week, I wait until my fellow rider presses the button, then I ask, "So what do they do on that floor?" I've gotten some great - and not so great - answers. My favorite came yesterday when a woman smiled broadly and said, "I work for the transportation department tollways division. We make it easy for you to commute to work in the morning using the cruise card." Although I take the interstate all the way to work, I knew instantly what she meant and I was impressed with her ability to succinctly describe what her "company" did. She passed my sound bite test, which dictates that you should be able to express your most important thought in less than 10 seconds. Moreover, she immediately made the information relevant by saying "We make if easy for you...." My friend, Sam Horn, author of a great blog, PopofMind, spends a good portion of her days teaching people how to engage others by succinctly describing what they do, why they do it, and why it matters. In one of her blog entries, she wrote: Barbara Walters said, “There are few times in your life when it isn’t too melodramatic to say your destiny hangs on the impression you make.” There are few people in the business world who haven't heard of the elevator speech, but I'm doubtful that many truly take it seriously and test their ability to make an impression in a matter of seconds. Have you tried it? The next time you're in an office building and going up an elevator, ask a rider the "What do you do on that floor?" question. (This is a little harder to pull off going down, since most of the time, you're all going to the lobby level. People will think you're just weird, not curious.) And in case you're wondering... my elevator speech is, "I work for Edelman, the world's largest independent Public Relations firm. We create, improve or change companies' reputations."

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