An MP explains the X Factor to a nun

The guests reviewing the Sunday papers on the Radio 4 programme Broadcasting House http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wlbhm (Podcast available until 24th December 2010) this morning included Sister Wendy Beckett http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sister_Wendy, David Aaronovitch http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Aaronovitch and Lee Scott http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Scott_(UK_politician).  Whilst discussing the news attention was turned to the X Factor http://xfactor.itv.com/2010/ and the final which is on TV tonight.  When Sister Wendy said that she did not know what the X Factor was about, Lee Scott provided a short and informative description (a sort of ‘elevator speech’) about the TV programme.     

The question and the reply promoted the following thought….being able to explain (whenever the need or opportunity arises) what you do and how you add value to your organisation is important for any role, but appears to be particularly important for knowledge and information management professionals.  Why so?  In my work consultancy work with organisations it is often the knowledge and information management professionals who raise the concern that others in the organisation do not sufficiently understand what they do and the value they add.  For some, the difficulties of expressing to others the intangible nature of their work in value-added terms is the issue, for others it is the concern that their activities are seen as ‘organisational overheads’.  There are many ways to address these issues/concerns and one of the simplest and easiest actions to take is to think through a number of ‘elevator speeches’ – the 30 to 60 second descriptions of the impact and outcomes resulting from work your activities.  After all, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and therefore it is important to be able to articulate something about the value you or your function adds to the organisation at the numerous communication opportunities that present themselves during a working day.

In my experience a good ‘elevator speech’ is one that is short/punchy; includes some facts/figures; is memorable; includes a ‘hook’ for follow-up/further information; and is delivered in the context of the audience/stakeholder, i.e. it addresses what’s in it for them.  In difficult economic times the functions, and the individuals within those functions, who cannot influence stakeholders and deliver convincing ‘elevator speeches’ when required, will find themselves in the front row of the cut-back and budget reduction firing line.

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