Elevating the Profile of Literacy Improvement

By Wendy Vaulton, Assistant Director of Research, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

wendy-vaulton“So, what do you do?” For years I envied people with job titles that were easy to convey in casual conversation—nurses, spy novelists, dog groomers.  My stock answer involved so much detail that by the time I finished, any sane person would have nodded off or fled for the bean dip. Enter the elevator speech.

Used in the corporate world to promote good and services for years, the elevator speech (or elevator pitch) can also promote your school’s literacy efforts. The elevator speech is intended to be brief (imagine the length of time it takes to ride up a couple of floors), and the primary goal is to interest someone in learning more, rather than deluging them with information.

Developing an elevator speech is not easy.  You want your speech to be simple but not simplistic, and rehearsed but not canned.  Start with a “hook” to peak the listener’s interest and motivate them to continue the conversation. Your hook might change depending on who you’re talking to, but two of the most memorable hooks shared by Literacy Coaches during trainings were:

  • “I help teachers make better decisions in the classroom”
  • “I’m the literacy quarterback at my school”

Follow your hook with that which is most difficult of all…a pause. Give that school board member a moment to ask a question or respond. Then, be prepared to answer those questions simply. You have already learned something valuable about that stakeholder’s point of view just by the nature of his or her question. It helps if you have a few “headlines” in your back pocket about results or needs that are relevant to different interest groups (parents, school board members, central administrators).  It takes practice and a lot of thought to get there, but when you can explain your literacy improvement efforts in 30 seconds, you’ve got it.

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