Every year, when the Association for Talent Development (ATD) Annual State of the Industry Report is released, one of the topics that are guaranteed to be part of the discussion is the need for learning professionals to communicate the value of training. The conversation that began with Kirkpatrick and continues with Phillips takes place at virtually every training conference, is represented as an article in almost all training publications and is a topic of debate whenever training professionals meet. The dialog focuses on metrics, or the lack thereof; ROI and the challenge of measuring it; and the meaning of “business impact.” Ed Trolley, the author of “ Running Training Like a Business,” suggests that the abundance of communication about these topics is primarily driven by the inability of learning professionals to discuss these subjects in a way that is valued by businesses they support.
The challenges associated with communicating the value that the training function provides to the larger organization could perhaps be mitigated if learning professionals were better at delivering elevator pitches. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Babak Nivi described the elevator pitch as “a summary of who you are, what you offer, who you offer it to, and why you’re better than others offering the same service.” Nivi went on to argue that the purpose of the elevator pitch is to extend the dialogue, and an elevator speech is more important than a business plan or executive summary. Dwight Peters concurred with this perspective in an article for Entrepreneur Magazine, as did Catherine Kaputa, the author of “You Are a Brand.” Kaputa went as far as to suggest that the ability to deliver an elevator pitch is closely aligned with both professional and organizational success.
Ebong Eka, an executive trainer and small business expert who is frequently featured on MSNBC, Fox News, NBC and CNN, argues that your elevator speech should include the name of your organization, a description of what your organization does, the problem that your organization solves and the benefit of using your organization. The challenge for training professionals is that, as Josh Bersin points out, they have a hard time articulating, in a concise manner that catches the attention of the businesses they support, what their function does for the larger organization, the problems they solve and the benefit of using their services.
As Nivi pointed out, delivering an effective elevator pitch may well be more important for trainers than having a business plan. And, as Kaputa suggested, the ability to deliver an effective elevator pitch may be a predictor of the success of both the training function and the individuals leading it. So, if you’re a learning professional who’s interested in long-term success, consider learning how to craft a personal elevator pitch.