How do I put a Sexy Red Dress on Poverty?

I do not have a good elevator speech. I know I don’t.

According to, “Executives who can’t clearly explain what they do and why anyone should care in the first 30 seconds miss out — on sales, on funding, on alliances … on business.”

And businessweek says, “One of the most important things a businessperson can do—especially an owner or someone who is involved in sales—is learn how to speak about their business to others. Being able to sum up unique aspects of your service or product in a way that excites others should be a fundamental skill. Yet many executives pay little attention to the continuing development of “the elevator pitch”—the quick, succinct summation of what your company makes or does.

That’s too bad, because the elevator pitch—so named because it should last no longer than the average elevator ride—is far too important to take casually. It’s one of the most effective methods available to reach new buyers and clients with a winning message. True, you may not actually be doing the pitching in an elevator, but even if your meeting is a planned, sit-down event, you should still be prepared to capture your audience’s attention quickly.”

I am not an executive, a lawyer, or a CEO. I am starting my second year of graduate school… and my elevator speech is terrible. I stumble around awkwardly to somewhat come close to almost explaining what I do in under five minutes… but only about half the people seem to fully understand what I do. How am I supposed to summarize my research and goals in 60 seconds or less? My wife does a better job of summarizing my research and goals than I do.

I am an introvert. My wife is an extrovert. But still… this is my research. I should be able to spit out something amazing in 60 seconds or less. But how do I actually do that? When I was in the Philippines doing my research, or when I am in Ohio visiting family and friends, people ask me what I do… and I stumble through it.

But I hate stumbling. It makes me look stupid and/or incompetent. I want to be able to summarize my research and goals in 60 seconds or less.

Some Key Points:

  • I research poverty on a global scale (currently focusing on the Philippines)
  • I research healthcare and also education as it relates to poverty
  • I want to become a college professor
  • I want to earn a certificate in nonprofit management to help nonprofit organizations
  • I want to make policy recommendations on the city, state, national and international levels to help with issues on poverty

How do I convey these key points in a way that makes people care? I don’t get it because to me it already sounds really important.

I am not selling a car, or an iPhone, or tickets to the Super Bowl. I’m discussing my research on global poverty and trying to get people to care. How do I put a sexy red dress on poverty so that people pay attention?

3 thoughts on “How do I put a Sexy Red Dress on Poverty?

  1. It´s not a matter of putting a sexy red dress on poverty. YOU need to think of something that you do with a different angle, your own unique take on it, if you like. How YOU are going to make a difference. Use a “killer first line or two”. Something that really makes people think.

    Then practice, practice, practice saying it, until it becomes second nature. Ask your wife to help you out, as you seem to think she knows how to do it.

    Always remember the 5 P´s …. Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Peformance. Because you never know who you are talking to – and if that person would be prepared to give you one million dollars to help your chosen cause.

    Then hit ´em with it!

    Good luck!

    1. I like the 5 P’s you mentioned. I have not practiced or planned to share with people, because I did not realize how many people would be asking me about what I do. I thought telling them I was in grad school researching poverty and healthcare in the Philippines was enough… but it is not. And based on how many people are interested in what I do, I really need to be more professional about how I present it.

      I will practice, practice, practice.

      1. The main thing is that you are aware of it now.

        I think that many, if not most people, would be interested in what you do, but I should imagine they want specifics 🙂

        I wish you all the very best, both at grad school and in your future.

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