One page, one paragraph, and your elevator pitch

by | Nov 5, 2016 | academic writing

Hello there! In this post I want to share a super-simple but oh-so-important (and useful!) exercise that will help you refine your message and get the laser-focused clarity necessary to really pursue your academic publishing goals.

One page, one paragraph, one elevator speech:

I hope you saw my previous post and did the exercise about finding your niche. These three writing exercises will help you get very clear on what you plan to do as you create knowledge in the nexus of your fields of study.

First, I’m going to give you a whole page to write a narrative describing what you do. So get out your notebook or fire up a blank document. Here’s what to include in your one page (not necessarily in any particular order):

  • Your fields (your nexus)
  • Your theoretical framing
  • The populations you work with
  • Your methodologies
  • The context
  • The change that you want your work to make in this world (this is the MOST important and the whole reason we are doing this academic thing)

I’ll even get you started. Your first line can read: “Working at the intersections of X, Y, and Z fields, my work focuses on _______________________.”

Now that you’ve got your one page, you’re going to write a more focused version. Shoot for 3-5 sentences. That’s your one paragraph. Write it down now! (No cheating!)

As you hone in on your specific niche and the language that you are going to use to express it, you are getting closer and closer to having an “elevator speech.” You may have heard of this exercise before, but here it is for those of you who haven’t:

Imagine you are at a conference and you are staying at the conference hotel. You are in the elevator on your way down to a session on the first floor when the elevator opens on the third floor and in walks Dr. X. Dr. X is the most well-known person in your field, and you’ve read all his/her stuff. (You might say you have an academic crush on this person <3.)

Dr. X’s eyes drop to your name tag. Because Dr. X is so friendly (after all besides being a rock-star academic s/he is an awesome human, too) s/he says:

“Well hello, [your name here]. What do you do?”

And you say, “[insert your elevator speech here].”

Now, the elevator is still going down and those doors will open when it gets to the first floor and Dr. X will walk out of your life and back into the faceless void forever. You have maybe 30 seconds, tops. What do you say?

It has to be concise. It has to be sharp. It has to be super-smart. And it has to perfectly encapsulate your niche. This might take some drafts to get right, and that’s ok. Once you’ve got this your laser focus is almost completely honed in.

Now write your elevator speech.

You’ve now created three versions of what you do. All of them are concise, each a little shorter than the next. Now what?

What can you do with you one page/one paragraph/elevator speech?

  1. Use them to make decisions about your time. Part of academia (especially early in your career) is being pulled in a million directions. When you are asked to take on a new project–serve on a committee, mentor a student, collaborate on a grant–refer to your one page/one paragraph/elevator speech. Does the new project fit? Even better: does it help you enhance what you say you are trying to do in academia? Will it lead to further recognition in your niche? If no, then say NO.
  2. Pull from these documents as you write proposals. Now that you have worked to articulate these ideas, you can incorporate this language into funding proposals, book proposals, and all kinds of other document–even emails you send to network with movers and shakers in your field!
  3. Let them serve as your guiding light. Print them out and hang them in your workspace. Refer to them and refine them as your ideas evolve. Be reminded of your purpose as you make day-to-day decisions.

Share your elevator speech in the comments below and I’ll give you feedback!! Can’t wait to hear from you!

Best (just kidding—that sounds so academic ;)),



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