You step into one of the elevators at your corporate headquarters, and suddenly the CEO joins you. The doors shut. You now have just a short period of time to engage the CEO on your initiative.
Choose your points wisely.
So far, we’ve discussed building a business case on paper, defining a purpose, explaining the value, cataloguing the key stakeholders and understanding your audience. In the real world, a business case has both written and verbal dimensions. Your ability to influence your audience will depend on how well you socialize the concept, engage others, and speak in a concise, yet powerful way.
An important tool in this effort is to develop your Elevator Speech, a 150-word (or less) summary that articulates the big idea, including the purpose, value/business necessity, high-level components, and urgency of your program. You should be able to articulate it in the 30 to 60 seconds it takes for the elevator to reach where it is going.
Conceptualize Your Idea
The brevity of the 150-word Elevator Speech requires you to be selective about the words you use and points you make. There simply is not enough time to explain your program at length in a one-minute elevator ride. Your listener needs to understand only the key points of your proposal:
- Drivers: Why you started to explore a solution; the internal and external drivers that require action.
- Solution: A high-level view of what the solution might look like at a categorical level (the details will be worked out during the rest of the process)
- Approach: A high-level view of how the solution will get developed, launched and operated
- Impact: A high-level explanation of the impact this solution will make on the company and stakeholders.
Socializing the concept helps in a variety of ways. It can help gauge interest and response; it can garner early champions and supporters; and feedback at this preliminary stage can help you further improve and develop a more successful proposal.
Here is an example of an Elevator Speech that you might have prepared in advance to open the way to a more in-depth conversation. You will note that the conceptual pitch does not necessarily need to be presented in a certain order, rather use this as an exercise to hone your thoughts and be able to articulate your proposal clearly and concisely.
- My team is exploring a program to enhance vendor operations in strategic foreign markets that are critical to our business operations yet rife with compliance concerns.
- Recognizing the strategic growth initiatives planned for Highriskistan, and that anti-bribery and anti-corruption are top of mind for the Board and Senior Leadership Team, our strategy is to enhance the vetting and selection procedures for third-party foreign-based vendors.
- We want to implement a new approach that will automate how we assess risk for these vendors; drive more consistency in flagging key risks, and ultimately improve vendor quality. At a high level, I think that we can save over $5 MM over 3 years while improving our cycle time to vet new vendors.
- Our proposal will directly enable the company to achieve our revenue and growth goals in Highriskistan.
- Happy to further discuss the ROI and reputation value, and would look forward to getting on your calendar to get your input and ideas to move this forward.
When to move on
Ideally, you will vocalize your Elevator Pitch to every person who will eventually be part of your audience. Try to gauge their overall reaction to the idea. In particular, try to get these questions answers (even if you have to be as bold as to ask them directly):
- Do they agree with your characterization of drivers (problems, challenges, forces, etc.)?
- Does the category of solution seem reasonable?
- Do they see any roadblocks with stakeholders?
- Do they understand how this connects with strategic objectives?
- Is the impact on the organization big enough? Important enough?
If you can’t vocalize the big idea to every audience member, then try to meet with at least half of them. Once you make your final pitch, you will be able to bridge to these early conversations.