The “Elevator Speech” is a pretty common way to self-promote and market. I’d always heard that the term “elevator speech” came out of GE when Jack Welsh was there as a way of making sure that a team had a succinct and compelling explanation for what they were about.
I mention the elevator speech because performance consultants have traditionally been challenged with finding clear, coherent ways to explain to co-workers and potential clients what it is that they do. An elevator speech is a 30 second explanation of who you are professionally and what you do.
A far better alternative in my opinion (at least when it comes to explaining performance consulting) is the audio-logo. I learned the audio-logo from Rebecca Birch. She told me she learned it from Lynn Kearney.
The template for an audio-logo is “I help ________ to do __________.” An example would be “I help Operations to spot process improvements” or “I help the Directors to establish the impact of specific solutions” or “I help the Field Offices to shorten delivery time.”
Part of the problem of trying to explain performance consulting to someone unfamiliar with the field is that most explanations tend to sound too general and all encompassing like “a systematic and systemic approach to achieve business objectives by improving human performance” (which is a good definition of performance consulting by the way—but not an effective way to clarify what it is and how it works to someone unfamiliar with the field.)
I like the audio-logo for a couple of reasons over the elevator speech. For starters, it’s short, even shorter than the typical elevator speech. For another, it provides a tangible example. Most elevator speeches about performance tend to be general and broad. But the audio-logo provides a specific example. The audio-logo is easily remembered by the person you’re talking with. Not only is it easy to remember but it helps people get a handle on some of the things performance consultants are capable of doing. Finally, the most common response after you deliver your audio-logo is “how do you do that?” which opens the door for you to go into more detail about how performance consulting works and why it’s different from more traditional approaches to work issues.
A common objection some consultants have when I first explain the audio-logo to them is “well, I do more than just help the call center answer questions more accurately or help teams solve problems quicker.” Part of this is driven by a fear that if I only give one example of what I’m capable of doing (helping engineering) than the potential client will assume that since she’s not part of engineering I can’t help here. And that fear encourages performance consultants to give the “kitchen sink” elevator speech/definition that explains everything they can do rather than focusing on one specific example. This fear ignores the reality that a broad, all-encompassing explanation is so general that clients can’t get their arms around it. So in my experience, it’s better to define what we do (performance consulting) by providing a specific example (thus, the audio-logo) that elicits the question “how do you do that?” rather than start with the broad all-encompassing definition that instead encourages people to tune out. And that also then allows the performance consultant to talk about how “and I can do this for more than just engineering too!”